If you’ve ever shopped for a “birthday humor” greeting card, you understand how commonly people associate bodily aches and ailments with aging. Naturally, an older body doesn’t function quite the same way as it used to given the wear and tear that takes place during one’s lifetime. Yet having arthritis, a condition responsible for pain in almost half of all Americans over 65, is not a foregone conclusion as you age.
What is Arthritis?
The term arthritis encompasses over 100 conditions that primarily affect a body’s joints. Some of the more familiar forms or related conditions include osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, septic arthritis, lupus, fibromyalgia and gout. While the prevalence of arthritis increases with age, both children and adults can suffer from these diseases.
Osteoarthritis, the most common form of arthritis, stems from the deterioration of a joint’s cartilage, causing stiffness, pain and loss of movement. Also called “knee arthritis” or “hip arthritis,” osteoarthritis affects joints of the body that receive the most stress, namely the knees, hips and hands.
Rheumatoid arthritis, another prevalent form, is a type of inflammatory arthritis and an autoimmune disease. It attacks the lining of joints, producing pain, fluid build-up and inflammation.
Fibromyalgia, a related rheumatic condition that affects three to five percent of adult women, causes the impairment of joints and soft tissues. While not technically a true form of arthritis because it does not damage joints or cause inflammation, it produces similar symptoms such as chronic pain and fatigue that may benefit from some of the same non-medical treatments as arthritis.
These chronic and debilitating conditions produce a number of arthritis symptoms that can greatly interfere with every-day life.
Arthritis can mean serious chronic pain for those affected by this disease (see Impact of Arthritis.) This pain can limit their activities and lower their quality of life.
Medication can help treat the symptoms, but adopting certain lifestyle changes can provide additional benefits to the way you live with arthritis. According to the Arthritis Foundation®, regular moderate exercise including stretching, strength training, and aerobics can decrease fatigue, improve strength and flexibility, and help you feel better overall. The foundation also recommends eating a balanced diet incorporating a wide variety of vitamins and nutrients, which can help reduce arthritis symptoms or have preventative effects. If left untreated, arthritis can lead to permanent joint damage and disability.
A person living with arthritis can benefit from caregiver support and encouragement in adopting these beneficial lifestyle changes, as well as in managing their doctor-prescribed pain treatment. Seniors often have numerous prescriptions to take throughout the day, and to ensure those medications do their job alleviating symptoms, a caregiver can help keep track of what to take when. The Arthritis Foundation® also suggests that caregivers help a person with arthritis keep an ongoing pain log to assess the effectiveness of treatments and to share with the doctor.
How Home Instead Can Help
Loss of mobility due to arthritis doesn’t have to mean loss of independence. Our CAREGivers arrive prepared to assist with activities of daily living such as household chores, dressing, bathing and errands. Support from a CAREGiver will allow you or your loved one with arthritis to reduce stress, fatigue, over-exertion and other factors that worsen the pain. CAREGivers can also facilitate opportunities for low-impact exercise as recommended by the Arthritis Foundation®, such as a walk in the park or attending a fitness class at a senior center, to minimize the symptoms of arthritis.
Visit our Arthritis Care section to learn more about our services.
The Home Instead Senior Care® network has partnered with the Arthritis Foundation to bring you a variety of arthritis related resources. The Arthritis Foundation® is the largest private, non-profit contributor to arthritis research in the world. The foundation helps support those living with arthritis by providing public health education, supporting public policy and legislation, and conducting evidence-based programs.
More information on Arthritis: