Published: May 2, 2014
With more than 100 forms of arthritis and other rheumatic diseases, approximately 52.5 million U.S. adults, 49.7% of which are aged 65 or older, struggle to manage daily tasks. Arthritis is currently the most common cause of disability in the U.S. and can prevent seniors from accomplishing the simplest tasks such a walking, preparing meals, picking up objects or even sitting for prolonged periods of time. Additionally, almost half of those with arthritis have other conditions, most commonly heart disease, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes, or strokes that disable them further. For a senior who was once active, these limitations can result in feelings of depression and anxiety.
While there is no cure, there are many coping strategies for managing arthritis and accompanying conditions.
Carrying extra weight creates additional stress and pain on joints that are already inflamed with arthritis. Exercise, which may be painful initially but will actually decrease pain over time, not only helps keep the weight down but also keeps the joints moving freely.
Exercise also releases endorphins, which can help stave off bouts of depression and release nervous anxiety. Both maintaining weight and exercising help to manage other chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Before beginning a program of exercise, however, seniors should speak with a medical professional.
Certain foods have been shown to reduce inflammation associated with arthritis as well as help maintain a healthy weight. Fish, at least twice a week, can reduce joint swelling, pain, and stiffness. Studies of rheumatoid arthritis patients show that adding fish oil supplements to their daily diets reduced arthritis symptoms to the degree that some patients were able to stop taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.
Nuts and seeds, loaded with inflammation-fighting monounsaturated fat, and fruits and vegetables, especially dark, leafy green vegetables that are high in antioxidants, also reduce arthritis symptoms. For maximum results, seniors should consume 1.5 ounces of nuts and at least nine servings of fruits and vegetable daily. Other foods that can help reduce pain are extra virgin olive oil (two to three tablespoons daily) and beans (at least two cups weekly). Vitamins A, C, D, E, K, and the B vitamins are also beneficial for reducing flare-ups.
Stress triggers the release of chemicals, such as cortisol, in the brain that can actually trigger flare-ups and increase the chances that the arthritis sufferer will develop other chronic conditions such as heart disease, anxiety, and depression. Staying active, doing deep breathing exercises, practicing meditation, venting through friends, or writing in a journal can help reduce stress thereby reducing pain and inflammation and the risks of developing other conditions.
Seniors with arthritis and other chronic conditions often discover that in spite of their best efforts, they may need additional help managing daily activities. Our caregivers, the people we call Comfort Keepers®, can help these seniors accomplish daily tasks and can keep the family informed if any changes occur. Our Comfort Keepers can assist clients with exercise, light housekeeping, grooming, bathing, and more. They can also help and encourage the client to appropriately use prescribed mobility devices such as walkers, canes, and braces.
Often seniors with arthritic conditions suffer from under-nutrition or malnutrition. These seniors find the simple task of meal preparation difficult and painful and often stop eating or eat out-of-the-box, unhealthy processed foods. Comfort Keepers help these clients through meal planning and preparation to ensure their nutritional requirements are met, working with the senior’s medical professional when necessary. Very often a little bit of help goes far in alleviating stress for seniors, giving them a more positive outlook so they can better manage their conditions.
Arthritis Foundation. (n.d.). What you can do. http://www.arthritistoday.org/what-you-can-do/staying-active/fitness-benefits/.
Bret S. Stetka, MD, Nathan Wei, AB, MD (March 22, 2013). Arthritis, Then and Now. Retrieved from Medscape Rheumatology http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/780895.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (March 17, 2014). Arthritis-Related Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/arthritis/data_statistics/arthritis_related_stats.htm.
National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. (n.d.). Living With Arthritis: Easy-to-Read Information for Patients and Families. Retrieved from http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Arthritis/#h.