How do you help your elderly loved ones to cope with the effects of arthritis, especially during the cooler months when symptoms often worsen? You may be surprised to learn that in Australia alone, almost a fifth of the population are living with arthritis. The two most common types of arthritis are Rheumatoid arthritis, an auto immune condition attacking the joints, and Osteoarthritis, more commonly associated with ageing. Osteoarthritis occurs when the tissue that cushions the joints wears away and the joints become stiff and sore. Either way, arthritis can be extremely painful and must be well managed in order for those living with the condition to enjoy optimal quality of life.
Arthritis is a reality for many elderly people, although not all, simply because over time and with extensive use, the joints and surrounding tissue are impacted by wear. While the likelihood of an individual developing arthritis can be influenced by lifestyle factors including obesity, genetics also plays a role, with women three times more likely to develop the condition than men.
If we are supporting individuals living with arthritis, what are the things we can do, from a practical perspective, to assist them in managing their condition?
Managing arthritis can only really be achieved by having a good understanding of the condition and acknowledging the impact it may be having on both physical and mental health. Pain management is key as this is a major factor in determining an individual’s quality of life. Arthritis pain, caused by damaged and/or inflamed joints, is ongoing which can understandably make people feel fractious and potentially depressed. Treatment of arthritis pain is achieved via a combination of pharmacological therapy and management of lifestyle factors. Pharmaceutical medications for arthritis aim to relieve pain, reduce inflammation and prevent further joint damage. Non pharmacological interventions include in the first instance – patient and caregiver education with attention to weight management, physical activity/exercise and the application of heat and/or cold to alleviate inflammation.
Whilst complete pain relief is seldom achieved for those living with arthritis, modulation of pain and the associated factors of fatigue, mental health and disrupted sleep are key components of enhancing the quality of life of arthritis sufferers.
Many of our residents at Homestyle live with and manage their arthritis symptoms. If you would like to visit one of our Homestyle homes click here.