Dr. Bartlett meets weekly with individuals experiencing high levels of depression or anxiety for a few months. “I will work closely with their rheumatologist to help patients feel more comfortable and confident in managing their disease and talking about their feelings,” she says. “Depression in patients with rheumatic diseases is important to identify and address, not only because of the impact on quality of life, but because depressed patients are less likely to take prescribed medications.”
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It’s important for patients to learn to live with their rheumatic disease. Dr. Bartlett teaches patients skills to more effectively self-manage their condition. She’ll help them identify reliable information sources, such as the ACR, where they can read about their condition(s) online. She will also point patients to such resources as online self-management programs, stress management classes and local exercise classes tailored to meet the needs of people with rheumatic conditions.
Dr. Bartlett also helps patients learn to communicate confidently and effectively with their medical team, employers, family members and friends. She will discuss how patients can partner with their rheumatologist to share in decision making and ensure they get the treatment that best fits their needs, preferences and values.
Further, Dr. Bartlett teaches patients how to set boundaries with family members, friends and other health professionals who may offer alternate suggestions on how to manage medications or lifestyle.
“The key is for the patient to let others know that, at this time, they are committed to following their rheumatology team’s recommendations,” Dr. Bartlett says. “Some patients may also need to learn how to educate others about their disease—although they may look fine, they may not feel well. Family members need to learn to be flexible, because the disease is unpredictable.”
Karen Appold is a medical writer in Pennsylvania.
- Herring MP, Puetz TW, O’Connor PJ, Dishman RK. Effect of exercise training on depressive symptoms among patients with a chronic illness: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Arch Intern Med. 2012 Jan 23;172(2):101–111.