Dealing with Arthritis in the Workplace
When you have arthritis, you have some days when you just don't feel like going to work. But you may not have the luxury of staying home every time you have a flare, especially if they happen often. That's why it's important to simplify your tasks at work, just like you did at home, to make them as easy on your joints and as energy-efficient as possible.
If your pain seriously interferes with your ability to do your job and you've done all you can to control it, you may want to consider leaving work behind and applying for disability insurance benefits.
Easing the pain when you work
Many of us spend our workdays sitting down in an office. It sounds easy, but working on a computer, handling correspondence, and doing other paperwork can be difficult if your hands hurt or you can't sit comfortably in a chair. Look into these ideas for streamlining paperwork and making desk duties easier:
- Large scissors with well-padded handles can make cutting easier.
- A rubber grip that fits around the barrel of a pen or pencil makes it easier to hold and less likely to slip.
- Rubber fingers (they look like a thimble made of rubber) can help you turn pages or thumb through a sheaf of papers without fumbling. Or you can twist a rubber band around the end of your finger for the same effect.
- Seam rippers are a nice substitute if you have trouble handling scissors.
- Tape dispensers with some weight and rubberized bottoms make it easier to pull off a piece of tape using just one hand, because they won't move.
If you have Internet access and your employer doesn't object to your handling some office tasks with online business transactions, you can cut down on the time you spend standing in long lines (putting strain on your joints) by doing the following:
- Bank by computer or through the mail. Find out if your bank offers these services. (Most do.)
- Buy your stamps online or through the mail. (Call your local post office for details.)
- Buy books, vitamins, gifts — even houses and cars online. The days of pounding the pavement to do your shopping are gone!
Applying for disability benefits
According to the Social Security Administration, if you can no longer do the kind of work you've been accustomed to doing, and you can't engage in any other kind of "substantial gainful activity" (anything that pays you more than $740 a month) because of your age, education and work experience, you may be eligible for disability insurance benefits.
To apply, get a claim form from your doctor, hospital, or your local employment development department office. Your doctor needs to state the exact nature of your medical condition and affirm that, in his opinion, you're unable to work at your present job. But getting disability benefits doesn't mean you can't still work. If you don't relish the idea of sitting at home, look into a special program run by the Social Security Administration that can help you find a job suited to your abilities while you continue to collect your disability benefits. Your local Social Security office can provide you with more details.