With more than 50 percent of Canadian women over the age of 65 and 35% of males the same age reporting arthritis, the disease can be considered quite common among the elderly. Joint inflammation is considered a major form of disability with seniors.
Whether you’re living at home, living in a residence or maybe receiving in-home care, it’s extremely important to establish a regime to counteract and manage the effects of arthritis. Really, the sooner you start, the better off you’ll be.
I’ve talked to thousands of senior patients over my career about their battle with arthritis, and where I see the most relief, is with those who actively pursue and do the things that relieve pain.
So first, what is arthritis? It’s a swelling of joints that can cause over 100 various conditions with your body. It comes in two types:
- Osteoarthritis (OA) This is basically wear and tear on a particular joint (not necessarily paired joints) over decades. Whether you used to jog, play tennis, knit or pursue an activity that requires repetitive motion and strain, your body can only take so much for so long. Now, your body is saying “enough” and the pain is your signal. The main treatment? Resting the joint to relieve the pain and taking pain relievers.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) This is where your joints get inflamed typically on both sides of the body. You can experience a decreased range of motion, and even warm or soft joints. Some people get a fever, tingling in the fingers or inflammation in other tissue areas of the body (like your skin, eyes or lungs). There are two types of medicines to treat RA: one to reduce pain and inflammation, and one to slow the progression of the disease.
So what can seniors do to live with it? How can aging adults improve their quality of life? What will take away the pain or at least help them manage it better.
As a senior, it depends upon your symptoms, your severity, your living arrangements and your doctor’s recommendations, but here are some tried and true tips to help you live better with arthritis.
Go big. The bigger the better when it comes to prescription bottles. So ask for a wide bottle when you place your prescription. They are easier to use and hold.
Speak up. Make sure you let your pharmacist know if you have concerns or symptoms with the medication prescribed.
Gear up. Wear proper shoes for walking and don’t be afraid to use canes or walkers. They relieve the strain on your joints.
Don’t stress. Keep stress off your joints by maintaining a healthy weight. Eat nutritious meals, senior-portioned and well-balanced.
Put it on ice. Cold therapy is a great help to reduce inflammation and pain.
Get in the know. Being informed is your first line of defense against arthritis. There’s plenty of info, tips and resources on the Arthritis Society of Canada website at www.arthritis.ca
Arthritis doesn’t have to take hold of you. You can take hold of it. Get a plan. Take action. Pain doesn’t have to rule your life.
Author Debbie Santos, RPh is the National Director of Clinical Pharmacy Services for Remedy’sRx Specialty Pharmacy. Remedy’sRx Specialty Pharmacy provides specialized services to seniors in residential settings.