Development and evaluation of a novel group educational intervention to promote partner support for people with rheumatoid arthritis

In addition to the many physical challenges that arise from rheumatoid arthritis (RA), related problems with pain, fatigue, sleep and depression can affect quality of family relationships, work and hobbies. Although current drug treatments for RA can improve symptoms in some people, there is still a great need for other types of help to make peoples’ lives better. Research has shown that good social support from family can result in better wellbeing, pain reduction and improved quality of life. With other types of arthritis, education programs have resulted in better coping among arthritis sufferers and their partners. However, there is no similar program specifically for people with RA. Dr. Allen Lehman’s study is the first to create and test a program to improve social support for people with RA and their partners. He will develop the program by conducting consultations with people with RA, their partners and couples together. Groups will discuss challenges and successes in getting support, what kinds of support work and what is not helpful. The program will then be piloted with 30 couples. This study aims help couples better understand the disease and learn more about what one can and cannot do to be supportive. Because social support predicts good health, the program could also be applied to people with other types of arthritis and chronic disease.