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Chronic Conditions

Living With COVID-19 When The World Has Moved On 

Linda Wilhelm

President, The Canadian Arthritis Patient Alliance  

Amid COVID-19, those with autoimmune conditions face heightened anxiety and access challenges, urging support and understanding in healthcare.

People living with autoimmune conditions like Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus are COVID-19 fatigued like everyone else. Four years of living with the virus- the fear, uncertainty, constant changing and inconsistency of public health guidelines- has caused heightened anxiety and long-lasting trauma for our community. When you add RSV and influenza, the situation becomes even worse. 

Most of us are getting our COVID-19 vaccines, if they’re available, and with RSV if they’re covered, but navigating a world with real threats to our health and lives is not easy. We’re told not to go to the emergency department (we don’t feel safe there, anyway), but to call our primary care provider. I couldn’t get a timely appointment with my doctor when I had RSV recently and was struggling. My province, New Brunswick, has a virtual appointment option with a nurse practitioner that has assisted me twice in the past three months. Pharmacists can help, but we’re finding that accessing therapies that lessen the complications of COVID-19 can be challenging for our patients. If blood test results aren’t recent enough, or the correct test wasn’t ordered, the pharmacist can’t safely prescribe the medications needed. 

Supporting immunocompromised individuals

There is a lack of understanding with providers and patients about what being immunocompromised means. Additionally, the ability of a person to navigate a complex system when they’re really ill without the energy to advocate for yourself or the necessary support in accessing what you need, is all too often impossible.

Many of our patients continue to mask in public spaces, opting for virtual meetings if available; however, they are often pressured to attend in person conferences, meetings, or return to an office setting when they are uncomfortable doing so. People who are immunocompromised need to participate in society in ways that don’t jeopardize our health and increase our anxiety. Everyone needs to understand our experiences and why we haven’t moved on from COVID-19 like the rest of the world. Let’s show compassion, empathy, and above all, kindness to those who continue to make choices and take precautions to protect their health.

Learn more at arthritispatient.ca.

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