Young arthritis sufferers say support lacking

Arthritis researcher Lauren Redshaw (left) with her friend and inspiration Marina Roxburgh. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.
Arthritis researcher Lauren Redshaw (left) with her friend and inspiration Marina Roxburgh. Photo by Gerard O'Brien.

Young adults suffering from arthritis are not being supported by health services, a Dunedin researcher says. Marina Roxburgh (23), of Dunedin, said she was diagnosed with arthritis a year ago and was given little support or information from health professionals about ways to cope with arthritis .

''To have someone say 'I'm sorry' and have some kind of compassion and tell you how it [arthritis] is going to affect your life. There is not any support there. There is a diagnosis and that's it.''

Having occupational therapy available would be better than only providing medication, she said.

''It's a very vague process and there's no help. Occupational therapy can give someone quality of life and support, rather than just medication.''

Having the chronic disease was like having broken glass in your joints that never went away, she said.

''Mine is in my back and my knees. It makes sleeping, reading books and walking difficult.''

Friend Lauren Redshaw (23) said she was studying occupational therapy in Dunedin last year and Miss Roxburgh's struggle inspired her to apply for a research scholarship to investigate the needs of young adults diagnosed with arthritis.

''The whole idea of my research is to identify what gaps there are in the information and support for young adults with arthritis because there is very little.''

The $5000 Arthritis New Zealand scholarship included interviews of five young adults who were recently diagnosed with arthritis - a 29-year-old Tauranga woman, a 28-year-old Invercargill woman, a 27-year-old Auckland woman, a 25-year-old Wellington woman and a 26-year-old New Plymouth man.

She interviewed them online with Skype and they all told her there was a lack of support.

''All my five participants have had extremely similar circumstances. They were given a diagnosis without empathy and compassion.''

After a diagnosis, the consultant or specialist should inform the sufferers of the support groups and resources available, Miss Redshaw said.

Only one participant was given an Arthritis NZ pamphlet by the health professional, she said.

Greater awareness was needed about arthritis in young adults because, for many, the diagnosis was a complete shock, she said.

''You're getting married, having children, studying, working and travelling in your 20s and 30s. It is the prime time to set up your life - and you have a chronic disease and there's no support and information.''

She would finish the 10-week research scholarship on February 28, Miss Redshaw said.

Arthritis New Zealand chief executive Sandra Kirby said arthritis affected joints and caused chronic pain, fatigue, anxiety and, in some cases, depression.

''Through Lauren's project, Arthritis New Zealand hopes to gain more information about the needs of young people with arthritis, so we can provide tailored support and resources to this group.''

- shawn.mcavinue@odt.co.nz

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