Home Instead Blog

10 Things to Avoid Saying to Anyone with Arthritis
Oct 15, 2013


The late and wonderful Meave Binchy was an active patron of the Arthritis Ireland helpline, having lived with osteoarthritis  for a long time herself. Meave, through experience, learnt things to avoid saying to someone with arthritis that we at Home Instead Senior Care think is certainly worth sharing.

10 Things to Avoid Saying to Anyone with Arthritis
  • "Cheer up, nobody ever died of arthritis", this statement is, oddly, not cheering at all. Just because the condition is not 'terminal', it doesn't make it any easier to deal with a diagnosis and people with arthritis sometimes feel that they should 'put  up and shut up'.there is also sometimes a feeling that if it were terminal, it would be taken more seriously and we may even be closer to finding a cure.
  • "it's just a sign of old age, it will come to us all". No, it's not a sign of old age. Even toddlers can get arthritis, and  some old people never get a twinge of it. The worst phrase you can use is "haven't you had a good innings?"
  • "Do you think she'll be able to manage the stairs?" Arthritis can make us many things, but certainly doesn't make us deaf
  • Avoid mentioning magic cures, as anyone with arthritis will already have heard of vinegars, honey, mussels, berry teas, and so on. We will probably have tried them too.Similarly, it can dispiriting to be told of someone else who was once bent double but now climbs mountains before breakfast
  • "That walking stick is very ageing - I wouldn't use it if I were you". People with arthritis don't use walking sticks as a fashion accessory. Of course it's hardly rejuvenating to be seen bent over a stick, but when the alternative is a knee or a hip that could let us down, or pitch us into traffic, then the stick is a great help. the stick ( or walking aid) can be the difference between getting out and about or not, and that should be praised and encouraged.
  • "A touch of arthritis". You don't say someone has a touch of diabetes or a touch of asthma. It is denying sympathy and concern for people who have a painful and ever-present condition to minimize it to just a touch.
  • Avoid suggesting a healthy walk to 'blow away the cobwebs'. People whose joints are unreliable don't want to get further proof of this when they are halfway down the pier. Unless you are a physiotherapist, be careful suggesting vigorous exercise to those who may not be up to it.
  • Try not to tell people with arthritis to go and live in a hot, dry climate like Arizona. it might be easier on the joints, but some of us are very happy here with family and friends, and don't want to be packed off like remittance men
  • One time you shouldn't stay silent is when your favourite restaurants, theaters or galleries are difficult to access for a friend with arthritis. If enough places were to do this, it would not take long to improve facilities. If we don't tell the offenders, how will they know there's a problem?
  • Don't ever say, sadly, how tragic it is that nothing has been done for people with arthritis. plenty is being done. Just contact Arthritis Ireland, or phone the national helpline on 1890 252 846. Then you will have an idea of how much is happening and you can be a true friend/carer rather than a false and frightening one.