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Monday, August 31, 2009

10 Things to Never say to Someone with Arthritis

by Maeve Binchy

We've had fantastic feedback since this article was published by the Irish Times to coincide with the launch of our Helpline (1890 252846). So, we thought we should share it with you again. Enjoy!

The bestselling author Maeve Binchy, Arthritis Ireland’s helpline patron, who has arthritis herself, has learnt through her own experience the things you shouldn’t say to someone who has arthritis:

1 "Cheer up, nobody ever died of arthritis." This statement is, oddly,not cheering at all. We have dark,broody feelings that if people did die of arthritis there might have been huge, well-funded research projects over the last few decades, which could have come up with a cure.

2 "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 very worst phrase you can use is "Haven’t you had a good innings?".

3 Remember that marvellous radio series about disabilities called "Does he take sugar?". The message of that title means you should never ask, in the hearing of someone with arthritis: 'Do you think she’ll b able to manage the stairs?' Arthritis can make us many things, but it certainly doesn’t make us deaf.

4 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. It is dispiriting to be told of someone else who was once bent double but now climbs mountains before breakfast.

5 Don’t ever say: “That walking stick is very ageing – I wouldn’t use it if I were you.” Did you think we thought of the stick as a fashion accessory? Of course we know 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 the traffic, then the stick is a great help. It is
sad when people give us the impression that it makes us look 100 years old. At last we are getting out there, and that should be praised and encouraged.

6 Never let the phrase “a touch of arthritis” pass your lips. 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 minimise it to just “a touch”.

7 Don’t suggest 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, don’t impose exercise on others.

8 Don’t tell people with arthritis to go and live in a hot, dry climate like Arizona. We know It might be easier on the joints, but some of us are very happy here with family and friends, and we don’t want to be packed off like remittance men.

9 One time you shouldn’t stay silent is when your favourite restaurants, theatres or galleries are difficult to access for a friend with arthritis. Before you turn your back on them, be sure to tell the owners or proprietors exactly why you will not be making a booking. You can be very polite and praising (“I hear such good things about your place”), but after the flattery should come the reason for regret (“Can I just confirm that
there isn’t a lift and that the cloakrooms are up or down a light of stairs?”). If enough people 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?

10 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 its new helpline. Then you will have an idea of how much is happening and you can be a true and informed friend rather than a false and frightening one.

Reprinted with the permission of the Irish Times


  1. Really a good & informative post regarding Arthritis.I think these 10 things will be very helpful that we should not to advice you the patient who are suffering from arthritis. Thanks a lot.

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  2. Nice post about 10 Things to Never say to Someone with Arthritis, in these days arthritis is more common and people have to try to be careful with their health for example I spend much money in buying generic viagra only because I need it.