Volunteering can be powerful medicine

Some research suggests volunteering can have a positive effect on overall health and well-being – and may help improve your disease. Many Americans who suffer from chronic conditions can get involved with volunteering to stay active.

And, for the more than 1 million Americans with the chronic condition rheumatoid arthritis (RA), volunteering may help them better manage the disease. RA is an autoimmune disease that affects the joints and can cause pain, disability and leave people feeling limited or isolated by their disease. Women are two to three times more likely to have RA than men, and the disease is most commonly diagnosed between the ages of 30 and 50.

A new nationwide initiative – Hand in Hand for RA – aims to change that by demonstrating to people living with RA that they can do more. In fact, results of a recent survey showed that a majority of people with RA want to be more active and not feel limited by their condition. Moreover, four in 10 want to give back through volunteering or public service to prove they are not limited by their RA.

“It’s the first time that we are bringing together people living with a form of arthritis like RA who would otherwise be held back a little bit by their condition, and give them an opportunity to help out in their community,” says Seth Ginsberg, co-founder and president of CreakyJoints, a grassroots arthritis group and a supporter of the Hand in Hand for RA campaign. “We want people to go to the handinhandforRA.com Web site where they can find resources or share their stories of things they’ve done in the past, and help out a little bit.”

Lending a helping hand
Debbie McGrady, 55, of Greenwood, Ind., has joined the campaign and gives back by driving senior citizens in her local community to doctor appointments and to run errands.

“When I was diagnosed with RA 11 years ago, it was pretty devastating for me,” Debbie says. “But after seeking out the right doctor and working with him to get my disease under control, I also changed my life – started eating healthier and exercising more often; then I found volunteerism. It’s just been a wonderful thing for me. It takes the focus off your disease and you can help others.”

Many ways to give back
When it comes to public service, there is something for everyone. The following are a few activities that may be well suited for those with RA. These include low-impact activities that are easy on the joints, and options that provide enough flexibility for even the busiest of schedules.

* Answering telephone calls for a local crisis support or charity hotline
* Reading to seniors at a local community center or retirement community
* Working at voting booths during election season
* Visiting hospitals or nursing homes to spend time with the patients
* Mentoring youth
* Volunteering at an animal shelter
* Joining a local gardening group or community beautification project

Before starting on any new activity, it is important to talk first with your doctor about what volunteer activities would be the best to pursue.

Get started
For more information on how to get involved with Hand in Hand for RA or to post your personal volunteering story and send kudos to current volunteers, visit www.handinhandforRA.com.

Hand In Hand for RA is a national awareness campaign developed by Genentech and Biogen Idec with the grassroots advocacy group CreakyJoints.

By ARAcontent


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