As we have written in past blogs, the importance of maintaining treatment and staying in low disease activity is crucial at this time. In addition to this, we also need to address the impact that isolation has on autoimmune diseases. For some, a time of isolation allows for personal reflection, an opportunity for a new hobby, reading a great book, and/or can be seen as a time of rejuvenation. For others, this can be a time of extreme loneliness, especially when living alone or without the technology to support some of the online opportunities to reach out to others. When this time is experienced as one of stress, this can result in an increase in cortisol production leading to higher levels of inflammation, which could promote disease flare.
For those with access to the internet, the good news is that now, more than ever, there are lots of opportunities to connect with each other remotely. The Canadian Ministry of Health has recently launched Wellness Together Canada to help people connect to peer support workers, social workers, psychologists, and other professionals for confidential chat sessions or phone calls. Learn more here.
Another way to connect can be done via seniors/community centres, many of whom have developed online programming to keep people connected.
Another resource that may be helpful is through the Arthritis Consumer Experts’ JointHealth publication, who are sending out a series of videos called #ArthritisAtHome. This week, they released Episode 7, titled “Isolation and Loneliness in the Age of COVID-19” by Dr. Susan Bartlett. You can watch the episode here.
Tomorrow night, the Arthritis Society is doing a webinar to answer questions about COVID-19 and arthritis. The webinar is free and you can register here.
We hope you will find some of these suggestions helpful during this unprecedented time. Overall, the message is to stay home, but stay connected.
Carolyn Whiskin is the Pharmacy Manager for Charlton Health. Carolyn specializes in the treatment of autoimmune diseases, pharmaceutical compounding, women’s health, pain and smoking cessation. Carolyn has won provincial and national awards for her commitment to patient care and public service.