Confronting life with rheumatoid arthritis


Patricia Melanson,
Dalhousie University School of Nursing,
5869 University Avenue,
Nova Scotia,
Canada B3H 3J5.


Background.  Older people with rheumatoid arthritis are confronted with a variety of chronic stressors on a daily basis. Living with rheumatoid arthritis means learning to cope with physical limitations, fatigue, losing mobility and independence, pain, uncertainty and role changes related to periods of exacerbation and remission. There is a paucity of literature that addresses the stress and coping processes over time for older people who have had rheumatoid arthritis since midlife.

Aim.  The purpose of this study was to identify and describe, at three points in time and over two 6-month intervals, the illness-related stressors perceived by older people diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis since midlife; their stress-related emotions and the coping strategies they used to manage the illness-related stressors.

Methods.  A longitudinal, descriptive design was used to assess older people's perceptions of illness-related stress, their stress emotions and the coping strategies used to manage the illness-related stressors.

Findings.  The majority of participants most frequently identified physical limitations as their illness-related stressors, harm as the stress emotion they experienced, and use of confrontive coping strategies to manage the stress associated with rheumatoid arthritis.

Conclusions.  The findings provide nurses with a better understanding of the experiences, emotions and coping strategies used by older people to manage the adversity of rheumatoid arthritis in daily living.