Coping with RA - how do I help someone resorting to CAMs?

ssa Member Posts: 2
Hello. I need advice regarding my mother's RA, given that she doesn't seem to cope all that well with it.

My mother has had RA for the past 17 years (she's 56). She had an early bad experience with the first MD who treated her; he prescribed her high doses of corticoids and was apparently the worst practitioner ever in many ways. Since then she has had a deep distrust for medicine. Following that, she would only resort to practitioners of CAMs, most of the times doctors but also people without licenses. She has tried among other homeopathy, bee stings, some chinese stuff I don't know what its name, some zinc supplements (actually many kind of supplements), acupuncture and many other practices. Now she seems to be back to homeopathy via a licensed MD, but who also gives her what I think is crazy advice on diets and other things.

She hasn't taken any RA specific drugs ever, though she does use heavily on ibuprofen and has taken glucosamine in the past. She is a tad overweight, but not much (say 10%). She hasn't had any kind of psychotherapy since about 1999 (and here the most common kind of therapy is long psychoanalysis...). She never had a persistent attitude towards exercise and training; sometimes she had a kind of water physiotherapist in a pool, but she only keeps at it for a few months at a time. The same goes for meditation. She tends to take on crazy diets; right now the hack MD attending to her has put her on a 3 days only fruits diet and further on she is not to eat any kind of meat and I don't know what else.

I don't know how to approach her. In the past I did it with arrogance and harshness towards her treatment choices. I didn't know any better and I have kind of a Richard Dawkins attitude to these things - most of the times I can't help it even if I try. I am not proud of myself but that's just how I still am in some ways, even after years of trying to improve (and some improvement). No one can't talk to her about her disease. Not my, my sister nor my father (her husband). Even though she carries a permanently happy state of mind, she resents how each of us has related to her and her condition in the past (and with particular reasons for every one of us). It is absolutely impossible for anyone to talk about her RA. Anything I could say to her about her treatment choices is immediately taken as an attack (reasonably given my past behavior with this issue).

So I need advice. Presently I'd be super happy if I could get her to do a sensible diet and the water physiotherapy. Down the road I'd like to get her to do some newer treatment. But I don't know how to start, even.

Thanks a lot if you read all of this, and please forgive my bad english.


ps: I don't have a problem with CAMs per se, I even practice meditation myself. But I am against any kind of treatment unsupported by medical trials, and most of the common CAMs are not supported by evidence and have some adverse effects. So yoga, meditation, etc is ok, even homeopathy if it doesn't go against proper treatment. Sadly, the 3 MDs who have prescribed an homeopathic treatment have so far ONLY gone into homeopathy and have given her bad advice regarding diet, exercise and other aspects. I have yet to corroborate this whole "homeopathy doesn't preclude other treatments" thing in my experience. But I'm all for it if it doesn't, and of course I'm more than willing to compromise if it helps to get my mother into some proper treatment.


  • helpline_team
    helpline_team Posts: 3,426
    edited 30. Nov -1, 00:00
    Hi ssa

    Welcome to the forum and many thanks for your posting. I am so sorry to hear about the difficulties you are encountering in trying to help your mother, it can be so tough when we only want the best for a parent.

    Firstly, I would like to say there seems to be quite a lot going on and I wonder if it might be helpful for you to give us a ring on our Helplines: 0808 800 4050 (Monday-Friday 10am-4pm) here we can talk informally and in confidence, sometimes a non-judgmental listening ear can be helpful.

    That aside it sounds as if your mother’s early experience of her medical professional, has left her as you say ‘with a deep distrust for medicine.’ You then speak of homeopathy, diet and exercise. It sounds as if your mother is having trouble actually seeing something through, and on some level may not want to recognise what’s going on for her.

    You mention psychotherapy, there are many types of therapy and this is something she could talk to her doctor about. It may be helpful for her in trying to work through some issues that could be around for her.

    You talk about not knowing how to approach her, and other family members can’t talk to her either about her RA. Just a thought, is there anything your mother, yourself or family member like to do, maybe a meal out. Possibly something away from home on neutral ground can be conducive to having a calm conversation, as I say just a thought.

    It seems like a really tough situation and I wonder about the family dynamics, it really feels like it this may be something to have a conversation about and once again would urge you to give us a call. I wonder if you mother may think about giving us a call too.

    I am going to give you a couple of links below to information that you may find helpful:
    The information within the link below will take you to Arthritis Research UK (the research body for the UK) here you will find information and reports on complementary and alternative medicine:

    The following link is to Arthritis Care publications; here you will find information about RA, healthy eating and exercise to name but a few:

    Lastly a link to the National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, they also have a helpline:
    Helpline: 0800 298 7650

    I do hope this is of some help, and once again we are here if you need us.
    Best wishes