Arthritis is often thought of as a disease for “old people”. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. More than 300,000 children in the United States are diagnosed with some form of juvenile arthritis (JA). If your child is among them, feelings of fear, uncertainty or frustration are common. These typically come up as you help your child and learn how to cope as a family with the disease.

With July being Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, Salus Homecare Salt Lake City would like to take this time to provide some strategies that have helped other families. Perhaps they can help yours too.

Juvenile Arthritis Impacts on Strength and Endurance

Kids with JA are often deconditioned as compared to those without this diagnosis. Their muscle strength and endurance also typically suffer, as does their aerobic and anaerobic capacity. They often tire quickly, even when their disease is inactive. This makes it difficult for them to participate in some school activities, sports leagues, complete certain activities of daily living or “just be kids”.

Benefits of Regular Exercise

Regular exercise is an important component in managing JA. It helps children to maintain a healthy weight, develop and maintain fine and gross motor skills and improve their range of motion. If your child has juvenile arthritis, activity can also help them to better manage symptoms and improve functional abilities.

Let Children Pursue their Passions

The best way to keep your child active is to find something that they love to do. Whether your child gravitates toward ballet or basketball, activities provide necessary distractions. They also help your child to feel more “normal” despite their condition. Modifications sometimes have to be made when those passions involve physical activity. It is important to work with your child’s doctor and physical or occupational therapist to ensure activity is safe. Family members and professional caregivers should also be made aware of any necessary modifications so they can assist the child appropriately and encourage them to follow guidelines.

The Importance of Sleep

When it comes to development, all children benefit when they get enough rest. This is even more important when your child is dealing with a chronic condition like rheumatoid arthritis. Feeling tired exasperates symptoms and can lead to chronic fatigue syndrome. To help your child rest better at night and during naptime, make sure they have comfortable pajamas. During a flair-up, stiff materials can be quite painful to wear. Offering your child plenty of pillows in bed might help too including one for between their knees and another for extra neck support.

Trust Your Child

As you are helping your child cope with juvenile arthritis, it is often easy to start asking them too often if they are in pain or uncomfortable. While this is certainly well-intentioned, it sometimes brings feelings of discomfort back into focus. Instead, try to adopt the idea that your child will come to you if they are uncomfortable or need help. If you don’t hear from them for a day, a week or a month, relish in the fact that they are simply enjoying being a kid. Once you get used to this idea, it can feel quite liberating as a parent to take this approach. It also empowers your child to take control of their own illness and self-manage discomfort when possible.

Helping your child better cope with juvenile arthritis involves keeping them active, letting them rest and empowering them to take charge of their disease. It is also important to surround yourself with the right support team including doctors, therapists and professional in home caregivers. Some days will be more difficult than others. Getting through as a family means finding balance and accepting help when your child needs it.

Salus Homecare Salt Lake City is an accredited provider of pediatric in home care. Contact us for support in developing an effective care plan for your child during by scheduling a complimentary, no obligation consultation.