Arthritis and seniors: The Basics

Arthritis is a condition that can affect anyone, but is almost commonplace in those over 65.  As the body ages, bones and joints start to deteriorate leading to pain, swelling, stiffness and discomfort. Women are more apt to have osteoporosis, or a softening of the bones caused by a lack of calcium, which makes them even more susceptible to arthritis. Although there are more than 100 different types of arthritis, the most common among seniors is osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout. If you become familiar with these different types and know what type you are dealing with when taking care of a senior, it can help to provide appropriate care and treatment to help them.

The most common type of arthritis that seniors deal with is osteoarthritis. The word literally means inflammation of the bones and joints. As people age, cartilage and other materials that make up joints wear out, can be damaged, or have been removed through surgery. This can cause the bone ends at the joints to rub together. The friction created by the bones rubbing together causes pain, stiffness and inflammation. If the bones have been worn down enough to produce grooves in the bones, they also may have very limited range of motion in the joints. It can be intensified by increased activity as well as damp weather conditions. If you are caring for a person with arthritis, make sure that they are taking any pain medication that is suggested or prescribed by their doctor, as well as any inflammatory medication they may be taking.  Natural calcium supplements and glucosamine chondroitin can also be beneficial in lessening the pain and discomfort. Be sure to understand all medication instructions so that they are getting as much benefit as possible from any medication or supplement they may be taking. The use of warm or cold compresses can also help alleviate pain and swelling even if for a short period of relief.

Rheumatoid arthritis is unfortunately another condition that is common in older people.  It is a disease that involves the body essentially fighting against itself. It develops in the linings and tissues surrounding the joints, and in some cases can affect other parts of the body such as organs, muscles and even the heart. In some cases depending on the severity of the disease, a person may also develop a fever. There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis, but there are ways to make a person more comfortable and make it easier for them to move and function.  The use of steroids and anti-inflammatory medications can help suppress some of the swelling as well as prescription or over the counter pain medicates to somewhat control pain.  It is a very debilitating disease that goes through phases where it is worse at some times than others. Although the disease is not curable the pain and associated problems can be somewhat alleviated to make it easier for a person with rheumatoid arthritis to function better.

The most painful arthritic condition is gout. Gout is formed by a collection of uric acid crystals that settle in joints and between joints and connective tissue such as muscles and tendons. It causes large amounts of swelling, stiffness and pain in the joints as well as giving the joints a bright red appearance. The most common joints for this to occur in are ones that support body weight such as the back, knees, hips, ankles and feet. This extremely painful condition makes normal activities such as walking, lifting and kneeling difficult. The stiffness in the joints also can affect the range of motion as well. It has been thought that gout is caused by a person’s diet that contained such things as large amounts of certain fish or organ meats. This can contribute to the problem but is not the direct cause. It is important for those with gout to maintain a healthy diet as well as make sure to have a good intake of non-alcoholic beverages throughout the day to help maintain a healthy level of uric acid, which is what causes gout. Their doctor might also prescribe medications to control uric acid as well as anti-inflammatory medicines and pain medication. Again, it is important to be sure that a senior afflicted with gout maintains a proper diet and takes all their medications properly.

Although there is no cure for arthritis, there are other things that can help make a senior more comfortable and give them the ability to enjoy life more. Providing assistance to senior with arthritis is a good way to be sure that they are getting the care needed to help alleviate pain and stiffness, as well as monitor their medications to be sure they are taking them as well as taking them properly. Having someone to make sure that they are eating nutritious meals that follow their diet plan can also help alleviate some arthritis problems. Homecare is a great way to provide not only companionship, but also needed and appreciated assistance to a parent or loved one with arthritis. Whether it is a daytime caregiver or live-in caregiver, that can help with cooking, housekeeping as well as provide mobility assistance for the senior they are taking care of.

If you are looking for a homecare provider for your parent or loved one who needs assistance due to arthritis, Carefect homecare services can provide non-medical in-home senior care. We provide services such as housekeeping and personal care, as well as meal preparation and help with physical activities from exercise to getting around the house. Carefect homecare services offers a free in home assessment that allows you and your parent or loved one to discuss the options and services that can be provided for them. The Carefect team is available to provide your parent or loved on with the care they need, as well as peace of mind for you knowing they are being well cared for.