Rheumatoid arthritis, spondyloarthritis and psoriatic arthritis are lifelong diseases, and although the options for treating the people with these diseases with medicine are better than ever, they are home alone most of the time.
These people must therefore learn to live with the effects of these diseases, including fatigue, pain, depression, anxiety, impaired physical function and quality of life. They also need to be familiar with the symptoms so that they can contact healthcare professionals when necessary.
Bente Appel Esbensen’s new research project will help to improve the early response to people with chronic arthritis and to prepare them to manage their life with arthritis. The project will achieve this by giving nurses and other healthcare professionals new competencies in this field.
“Nurses need to learn how to best support chronically ill people when they are not in hospital. Nurses need to know how to advise people about physical activity, what information and guidance to provide, whether they can help people best in groups or individually and other things,” explains the researcher behind the project, Bente Appel Esbensen, Senior Researcher, Center for Rheumatology and Spine Diseases, Rigshospitalet.
The Foundation has awarded DKK 7.5 million to Bente Appel Esbensen under its nursing research programme. The project will run for 5 years.
Using time optimally
Bente Appel Esbensen explains that healthcare professionals spend very little time with these chronically ill people, and they should therefore use this time optimally. The short visits mean that nurses need to provide different services than the ones they would provide if these people were in hospital for a long period.
This limited contact with these people is the focus of the new project, in which Bente Appel Esbensen will explore how to use the time optimally to ensure that the people with chronic arthritis have the best prerequisites for managing their illness. This could include:
- helping these people to understand what being chronically ill means;
- talking to these people about their sleep patterns: 60% of the people with chronic diseases have disturbed sleep, and good advice on sleep can help them to sleep better, which can improve their quality of life; and
- exploring the opportunities for these people to engage in physical activity and continue any previous sports activity by adapting their physical activity so it fits their state of illness.
“Healthcare professionals can help people with chronic diseases in many ways if we can convey our messages appropriately,” explains Bente Appel Esbensen.
Bente Appel Esbensen will conduct trials in which she will equip nurses with various tools that they then test in their contact with chronically ill people. She will then compare these people’s perceptions of being equipped to manage their life with chronic illness with those of the people in contact with healthcare professionals as they are today. The Center for Rheumatology and Spine Diseases at Rigshospitalet, Sønderborg Center for Rheumatology and Department of Rheumatology at Aarhus University Hospital will participate in the trial. Some healthcare professionals will be equipped with the new tools, and others will serve as a control group.
The results of the new initiatives will be assessed based on the activity level of the people with chronic arthritis, how they experience their own situation and various physiological signs such as blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and blood glucose.
Improving the services offered
Bente Appel Esbensen’s goal is that the research will result in tools that greatly improve how nurses and other healthcare professionals can help individuals with chronic arthritis in managing their daily lives, even after being diagnosed with lifelong arthritis. In addition, the project is expected to help nurses identify people who need special attention because they may have anxiety or depression and are therefore more severely affected by arthritis.
“I hope that, by the end of this project, we will have developed better services to offer people with chronic arthritis, so that they improve their quality of life and are better able to stay in the labour market and maintain their social relationships. This applies both when they are first diagnosed and further along if things get worse,” says Bente Appel Esbensen.
The Foundation awarded the grant under its nursing research programme, which was established in 2016 with the aim of achieving better treatment results through such efforts as disease prevention, treatment, rehabilitation and palliative care. The Foundation has earmarked DKK 37.5 million for the programme to fund grants for five research projects of DKK 7.5 million each over 5 years.