In a popular poem an elderly woman speaks of her five boyfriends — one of which, ‘Arthur Ritis’ takes her from “joint to joint.” It’s a tongue and cheek anecdote about getting older and yet, it hits on a reality for arthritis sufferers: the disease is a daily if not hourly struggle. As loved ones of those who suffer from the disease, we may feel powerless watching as a family member affected by arthritis experiences a decrease in their quality of life. Fortunately, there are methods and strategies that offer help for people with arthritis. Here are a few ways family members can help them to cope with the disorder.
Ensure medications are being taken. It can be cumbersome to take all the medications necessary for the management of arthritis pain, much less remember to keep up with a daily regimen. For those suffering from arthritis, family support and gentle reminders from loved ones can help make the process more tolerable.
Encourage a healthy diet. Diet can impact those with arthritis in two ways. First, excess weight can exacerbate arthritis by putting even more pressure on the joints than what is already caused by the disease. Second, because rheumatoid arthritis causes inflammation of the membrane between joints, a dietary switch to anti-inflammatory foods can offer some arthritis relief. An easy way to support the arthritis sufferer in your life is to take up better eating habits with them.
Exercise together: For those without an arthritis family history, it may seem counterintuitive to learn that exercise and movement could actually lead to less pain. The truth is however that exercise can be a form of physical therapy. If the muscles around the affected joints are strong, they’ll better support the bones and thus allow some relief for victims. Even though it may be hard at first for seniors to start exercising because of stiff joints and pain, research shows that it should gradually get easier.
Consider day to day living. It can be easy to take for granted all the little things we do day to day that can be extremely difficult for seniors with arthritis. Opening a jar of pasta sauce or using a step stool could potentially be troublesome. Take inventory of what it is like for your loved one to navigate their home and take steps to make it more accessible.
Work as a team. It can be interesting observing arthritis effects on the family dynamic. As seniors it can be difficult to go from being the parent and provider to losing some of your independence and requiring your child’s help. On the flip side, as family caregivers, it can be both physically and emotionally draining to need to take care of a parent in this way. The solution is for both family caregivers and their loved ones to take an active part in their continued care and empathize with one another!
When it comes to arthritis, seniors and families have room to be encouraged. Medical advancements are being made constantly and surgeries like hip replacements are more commonplace and quality of life is improving. It is the hope of doctors that within the next 20 years arthritis will become a manageable disease where sufferers won’t look any different than the rest of the population.