Patient Blogs | Psoriatic Arthritis
Asking For Help, Reaching Out for Support
photo of businessman pulling rolling suitcase

Over time, I have come to realize that when you have a condition like psoriatic arthritis that causes physical impairment or limitations in mobility, there is absolutely no reason to not ask for help and no reason to be embarrassed by having to ask. 

Sometimes, people will see that I am struggling to do something due to constraints that are the result of surgery.  What comes to mind is my experience as an airline passenger. I have had reverse shoulder replacement surgery on both shoulders.  While I can “reach up to the sky,” I have a 5-pound limitation on lifting with either arm. Also, my physical therapist has recommended against ever trying to put a rollaboard bag into the overhead bins. 

As everyone knows, it is not worth the cost of shipping a bag or having to wait for the baggage to get to the arrivals area of the airport.  So I have bought the lightest type of rollaboard bag, and I politely ask the flight attendant or a larger passenger to assist me with storing the bag.  What has been extremely helpful is that the passenger who helps on the departure side is usually more than happy to volunteer to retrieve the bag upon arrival.

Fortunately, I live in a city with a temperate climate, so I don’t often have to deal with putting on a heavy, cold-weather coat. However, when I travel (before the pandemic), my struggle to put on the second arm of the coat is almost always met by someone stepping up to guide my left hand into the shoulder opening.

Having reverse shoulder replacement surgery typically means that you are not able to put your hands behind your back.  For a man, this means that you must pull your belt through the beltloops on your pants before you put on the pants.  This has become an issue when I have arrived at the TSA check-in at an airport, when the TSA agent asks me to remove my belt (to check the metal).  I always tell them that I can remove the belt, but that I will need their assistance to return the belt to the belt loops, and I have never had anyone turn me down.

I must admit that often when I bend down to pick up something from the floor, I fail to manage the pickup on the first try. If someone is around and sees me struggling, they will volunteer to help if they are more flexible.

Not surprisingly, members of my family, especially my wife, are ready, willing, and able to assist me whenever necessary. This has been vitally important to me especially during rehabilitation periods after surgery, but also in everyday activities.  Their sensitivity to my needs has been incredibly proactive on their part, not making me ask for assistance, but volunteering as a matter of habit.  They have been critical in assisting me to stand up or to reach things, and ensure that I am using assistive devices (grab bars, rolling luggage, walking canes, night-lights, etc.) whenever necessary.

I must admit that on many occasions it is obvious that I am physically limited in a variety of activities.  Because it is so noticeable, I am not often required to ask for assistance.  However, when necessary, I have long since lost any sense of shame for the need to ask for assistance, and almost everyone is more than willing to assist, and I get the sense that their helping me makes them also feel good about themselves – their good deed for the day. 

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Photo Credit: mapodile / E+ via Getty Images

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Richard Seiden

Richard Seiden

Diagnosed since 1976

Richard Seiden has lived with psoriasis and psoriatic arthritis for 50 years. A retired attorney whose practice focused on representing providers in the health care industry, he is spending retirement as a board or panel member on several nonprofit health care organizations and a National Institutes of Health panel. In addition, he is a patient advocate and educational resource for other patients based on his disease experience. He is also a longtime board member of the National Psoriasis Foundation. He lives in Southern California.

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