Arthritis can’t be cured, but workplaces can help sufferers overcome obstacles

The prevalence of this chronic disease will increase in the workplace as the population ages. Sufferers are reluctant to tell supervisors and get help functioning at work
By Shannon Klie
|Canadian HR Reporter|Last Updated: 01/17/2006

The pain started in Randy Rath’s fingers. Then the stiffness and fatigue spread to his other joints. When his doctor diagnosed him with psoriatic arthritis, a debilitating form of inflammatory arthritis, he was devastated.

As a cameraman for the Ontario Provincial Legislature, Rath’s job required daily lifting, standing and agility. As his symptoms worsened, it was impossible for him to make it through the work day. Knowing the disease was chronic and incurable was almost more than Rath could handle. “It was difficult not to be fearful of what the future might bring with this disease,” he says.

Arthritis is a very complicated disease with more than 100 forms, which can be split into two categories: inflammatory arthritis (such as psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis) and degenerative or osteoarthritis. The former can affect people of any age while the latter tends to affect individuals later in life. However, an occupational therapist with the Canadian Arthritis Society says she now has more clients in their 40s who have osteoarthritis.