According to the Arthritis Foundation, over 50 million Americans have arthritis. As the leading cause of disability in the US, one-in-two adults aged 65+ live with arthritis. For independent seniors, finding effective ways to manage arthritis is essential for maintaining their quality of life. If you are currently caring for an aging loved one who deals with arthritis-related aches and pains, read on to learn more about their condition and how you can help.
Osteoarthritis Commonly Targets the Elderly
Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints that can cause debilitating joint pain. Clinicians have identified over 100 different types of arthritis and related medical conditions. The causes and treatment options that are available vary depending on the type of arthritis it is.
Affecting more than 30 million Americans, osteoarthritis (OA), or degenerative arthritis, is the most common type. With OA, the cartilage in the joints breaks down due to “wear and tear,” which allows bones to rub together. The rubbing often causes joint inflammation and pain, along with bone injury and bone spur formation.
While mostly targeting joints in the hands, knees, elbows, and hips, OA symptoms include:
- Joint pain or tenderness
- Joint instability
- Joint inflammation or enlargement
- Joint deformity or malalignment
- Crepitus (cracking, grinding, or popping)
- Stiffness or limited range of motion
When diagnosing OA, a doctor will first take a medical history and conduct a physical exam. X-rays and other imaging tests may then be ordered. The doctor might also aspirate an affected joint and check the fluid for infection.
As the second-leading form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a type of autoimmune disease in which the body attacks healthy joint tissue. More prevalent in women than men, an estimated 1.5 million adults in the US live with RA. The most common symptom is morning stiffness and joint pain. Other parts of the body can also be affected, including the heart, lungs, eyes, or skin.
Additional RA-related symptoms and complications include:
- Sjogren’s syndrome
- Sleep difficulties
- Joint deformities
- Numbness, warmth, burning, and tingling in the hands and feet
- Nodules under the skin and near joints that are firm to the touch
Diagnosing RA requires a medical history, physical exam, or X-rays or other imaging tests. When RA is suspected, a doctor might also order additional bloodwork to rule out other medical conditions.
Tips to Manage Arthritis for Seniors
When first diagnosed, your loved one’s doctor will recommend a treatment plan which may include follow-up appointments, physical therapy, and prescription medications. Helping your senior effectively manage their arthritis is also possible by taking these steps:
Join a support group
Encourage your loved one to attend an arthritis self-management workshop or join an arthritis support group. Being part of a support network will allow them to learn new coping skills for managing their condition, along with how to make better decisions about their health. A list of Connect Groups for seniors with arthritis can be found on the Arthritis Foundation’s website.
Physical activity is a simple yet effective, non-pharmaceutical way to relieve arthritis pain. In addition to its pain management benefits, regular exercise also helps improve mood, function, and quality of life. Some of the best low-impact exercises for seniors with arthritis include water aerobics, walking, yoga, and Tai Chi.
Watch your weight
Being overweight places additional stress on arthritic joints, especially weight-bearing joints in the hips and knees. Eating a healthy diet and exercising for 150 minutes per week at a moderate intensity helps shed excess pounds, ultimately improving pain and function for someone with arthritis.
Although there isn’t a lot of scientific evidence to support the use of these products or therapies, some of the most promising alternative remedies for arthritis include acupuncture, glucosamine, chondroitin, and massage.
In-Home Arthritis Management Support for Seniors in Virginia
It’s hard to help an aging loved one manage their arthritis when you can’t spend enough time with them. At AmeriCare Plus, we’ve been providing independent seniors in Virginia with care, compassion, and security in the comfort of their own homes for over 26 years. As a family-owned senior care business, our highly trained professionals provide in-home support ranging from food shopping and dietary assistance to helping clients stay active.
With 10 convenient locations, our compassionate caregivers can deliver services including hourly personal care, live-in companion care, post-operative care, dementia care, and respite care. Led by Team Teal, AmeriCare Plus is one big family taking care of your family! To learn more about our home care services now, or to schedule an initial consultation for a senior in our service area, please visit us today at www.americarepluspc.com.