Having fibromyalgia is hard. It’s the kind of condition that changes your life completely. You can’t do the sort of things you used to, which means you have to make huge adjustments to your entire lifestyle. And through it all, you’re dealing with chronic, horrible pain and debilitating fatigue.
But fibromyalgia isn’t just hard for the people who have it. Too often we forget about how it can change the lives of those who have loved ones who suffer from the condition. Often, these people are thrust into the position of caregiver.
So what do you do when someone you love develops fibromyalgia? The most important thing is to educate yourself on the condition. There is a lot of misinformation out there about fibromyalgia, so it’s vital to get the real facts. So, let’s discuss what you should know about fibromyalgia if you have a loved one with the condition and talk about some tips for fibromyalgia caregivers.
What Is Fibromyalgia?
If your loved one is diagnosed with fibromyalgia, you may begin to notice that they are frequently tired or constantly in pain. That’s because fibromyalgia causes chronic fatigue and pain which radiates out of 18 specific points on the body. These points are called tender points because when you press into them, the pain spikes. But the pain doesn’t just occur when the points are touched.
Instead, the pain of fibromyalgia is basically constant. But that’s not to suggest that it’s always the same. The person you’re caring for may experience something known as “flare-ups.” These are basically days when the symptoms of the condition are much more severe. They’re typically caused by stress or physical activity, and they can be severe enough to make it almost impossible to get out of bed.
And you may also notice that, during these flare-ups, someone with fibromyalgia may seem especially forgetful, or have a hard time focusing. That’s because fibromyalgia causes a sort of mental cloudiness. People in the fibromyalgia community often refer to this as “fibro fog.”
We don’t know what causes fibromyalgia, but the best theory is that it’s somehow linked to a condition in the nervous system that causes the nerves to send out pain signals without any source of physical damage.
So, now that you know a little more about fibromyalgia, what are some things you should keep in mind when caring for someone who has the condition?
Tips For Fibromyalgia Caregivers
The first thing to consider when caring for someone with fibromyalgia is that they should remember to take their medication. Due to their fibro fog, they may sometimes forget. In addition, many people who struggle with fibromyalgia feel like their medication isn’t really working for them. And for many people, this may actually be true.
The standard medication for treating fibromyalgia is something called an SSRI. These drugs work by increasing the level of serotonin in the brain, and they can be helpful for a lot of people with the condition. But they don’t seem to work for everyone. As a result, the person with fibromyalgia may not want to take them. However, medication decisions should always be made by a doctor. If the person your caring for doesn’t feel like their medication is working, help them set up an appointment with their physician to discuss other options, but encourage them to take their medication until a doctor changes their prescription.
Many people with fibromyalgia also take opioid pain relievers. These carry their own risks, and as you’ve probably heard, opioid overdose deaths have often been described as an epidemic. Make sure that the person you’re caring for is taking these medications responsibly.
The second most important part of caring for someone with fibromyalgia is to remember that they are suffering. Often, people with fibromyalgia have a hard time maintaining relationships. Fibromyalgia is life-changing in more ways than one. It can change your personality when you’re struggling with chronic pain. And the fatigue and mental fog make it difficult to handle daily tasks.
So, the person you’re caring for might struggle with daily life, and it’s important to be there for them. Simply be a friend first and a caregiver second. Those struggles that people with fibromyalgia endure often lead to depression, which is something you should also watch out for. While fibromyalgia isn’t fatal, the suicide rate among people with fibromyalgia is tragically high. And the depression can be much worse if the person with the condition feels socially isolated.
So, keep a close lookout for signs of depression, and assist the person you’re caring for with getting professional help if it seems like they need it.
And remember, there isn’t much you can do to help someone with the pain of fibromyalgia, but you can make their life easier in a lot of ways. And most importantly, you can help them continue to live their lives as normally as possible.
So, are you providing care for someone with fibromyalgia? What other things should caregivers consider? Let us know in the comments.