Thursday, 12 April 2012

Setting goals, but does Fred listen?

I have had to have stern words with Fred as I am going through a flare but he just doesn't want to listen. I have even tried to give the flare away but no takers so far.

I have been reading forums and blogs and seen posts about setting goals and racing to finish activities.

I feel setting goals is a good idea as it spurs everyone to achieve. However, it isn't that easy when you have a chronic illness. Many years ago I was introduced to 'pacing' but I have never been able to achieve it. Of course I have learnt the hard way and caused myself distress, pain and acute fatigue; not to mention what I have done to my family, especially my husband by not practising this technique.

Realistic goals are excellent as long as you stick to those goals and not try and overachieve. It would (and has been for me) easy to feel that having achieved the set goals you can push on to do a little more and a little bit more. Setting unrealistic goals mean that you will be rushing to finish and for anyone who has chronic pain, stiffness and tiredness it is the perfect way to set you back and stop further activity for a while.

So what are realistic goals?

For me it is being able to prepare meals, go shopping, visit friends, go on outings. Not overly exciting but for me they are what I want to do while others have different goals but the technique is the same.

If I want or need to go out I need to rest up the day before. Depending on where I have been and how long I have been out I might need to rest up the day after too. To go shopping I have to have a list and plan where I am going, so we have an route we will follow. If I am out too long I get so tired I find it difficult to communicate; this is a legacy of my three strokes. I have to have help with cooking and I turn to my husband or granddaughter to assist me. My husband never complains at chopping onions, garlic and chilli peppers, although I make him wash his hands thoroughly afterwards! My granddaughter makes superb pastry but if I need to do it whilst she is at school I use my food processor; saves time and eliminates pain. I make my own bread and I am so thankful for my bread maker, pop in the ingredients, switch on and let it get on with it. I feel some kitchen aids are a waste of money but my food processor, bread maker and juicer are worth the money.

I use a chair to sit on when I have to stir sauces or ingredients at the cooker and ask my husband to get things from cupboards, the fridge, freezer and cooker. Some people will say I am lazy but just these little changes to my life mean I can achieve goals something very important to people in my position. If I tire myself but being too independent it means I collapse in pain and feeling so tired and I will have to go to bed. I then cannot eat meals with my husband and put extra pressure on him and the rest of the family. This is most unfair to them, I like to watch television with my husband but if I overdo it then we watch the same programme in separate rooms.

To make life easier for my husband I have a medical bed which has a controller to raise the bed and the head to help me sit up. This helps him so he hasn't got to manually lift me. So the goals I set means that my husband isn't too tired and in pain to help me through the day and achieve what I want to do.

Even following these techniques doesn't mean that you can do everything you would like to do. Rheumatoid arthritis can go into remission but equally it can flare out of control. People live with varying degrees of rheumatoid arthritis and this has a bearing on what they can do.

There is no need to rush through chores or activities.
Take regular breaks.
Try to sit while doing household chores like food preparation, ironing, gardening and while attending to food on the cooker.
Use aids or adaptations to help with household chores, in the car, in the bathroom and if necessary in the bedroom.
Lose weight if necessary to avoid strain on joints and hopefully improve mobility.
Make sure you take the medication prescribed and discuss your medication with your rheumatologist if you feel things are not going well.
Make sure the goals you set are realistic.
Don't be afraid to ask for help.
Don't be afraid to accept offers of help.
Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disease and affects organs as well as joints, report anything you feel is abnormal for you.

Having written this I now have to make sure I follow my own advice!

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