How to Become an Arthritis Advocate

If you want to live the best life you can with arthritis, you need to stand up for yourself and your condition. Whether you're the one with arthritis or are a caregiver for a spouse or child who has it, it's up to you to ask for the things you need. Fortunately, you don't need specific training or schooling to become an arthritis advocate. You just need a little time, patience, and confidence.

Start by making your arthritis advocacy personal. If you're unhappy with your level of healthcare coverage, talk to the benefits specialist at your job about getting a more comprehensive policy. You can also speak directly to your insurance company to find out how you can lower your premiums, get additional coverage, get approval for certain drugs or treatments you need, and appeal any claims your insurer has denied. Your doctor can also act on your behalf to get denials overturned; don't be shy about asking him to try. Also ask your doctor for free drug samples and find out if the company that makes your medication offers any discounts. If you need special considerations in the workplace or in a school setting, make sure you're familiar with your rights and any laws that apply, and make your needs nicely but firmly known to the executives or administrators who have decision-making capabilities.

Ready for more? You can make a difference by reaching out to government representatives to make life better for all arthritis patients. Is there a bill that you want to see passed? Are you opposed to a proposition that might hurt people with arthritis? You don't have to be a V.I.P. to get an appointment with a Congressional representative. Nor do you have to get to Washington if too difficult; representatives travel regularly and one will probably be in your area at some point soon. You can also send a letter or e-mail explaining what you want. Tell the representative your arthritis story and explain the necessity of what you're asking for. Back up your story with facts and figures about arthritis and how far-reaching its impact is. If you can time your request so it coincides with an upcoming election, your candidate will probably pay particular attention to what you're saying.

Whether you're dealing with a politician, an insurance company, a workplace, or a school, don't be put off by the answer "no." Be persistent. Keep asking for what you want. Changes sometimes come slowly, but don't lose faith. Keep in touch on a regular basis and let others know you're serious about your needs. And don't be afraid to take your requests to a higher level if necessary.



Arthritis Foundation,