Caring & Arthritis – World Arthritis Day
How to manage arthritis in old age, according to Home Instead and Arthritis Australia
This October 12th is World Arthritis Day and in Australia, close to 1 in 5 people live with the condition. There are over 100 forms of arthritis, affecting almost every joint in the human body. The majority of these forms are chronic disorders and cannot be cured. However, they can be managed. In-home care provider Home Instead has developed a resource entitled Caring & Arthritis: Practical advice for carers and people living with arthritis. The content in the resource has been approved by Arthritis Australia. The booklet delves into what arthritis is and how it affects people, ways a carer can offer support, tips on improving communication and outlines additional support resources.
Martin Warner, Founder of Home Instead says, “The majority of our clients at Home Instead have some form of arthritis and many suffer a great deal from the condition. Through our network of CAREGivers we are able to support them with day-to-day activities and ease the frustrations that come from pain and poor mobility. Our top priority is helping seniors maintain their independence so they can focus on enjoying life as they age.”
Paula Herlihen from Arthritis Queensland says, “Caring for someone with arthritis can be overwhelming, particularly when the person affected is a loved one. Home Instead’s resource, Caring and Arthritis, provides up-to-date information on the various types of arthritis, and practical information on how to best care for those living with these conditions. Carers are a vital part of many people’s support networks. This resource will offer support and guidance to the thousands of Australians who are caring for someone living with arthritis.”
Arthritis can be managed through the right combination of exercise, medications and lifestyle changes. The Home Instead Caring & Arthritis resource explores the ways of managing the condition and how a carer can provide help and support.
Medication is a key element of the management process to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, suppress the immune system and reduce joint damage. Carers can help by learning about any possible side effects of prescribed medication and over the counter drugs and helping to ensure that all medication is taken as directed.
There is no magic bullet when it comes to diet and curing arthritis. However, a balanced diet is the best way to maintain general health and wellbeing. Being overweight also leads to an increased amount of stress on the joints in the body.
Exercise is one of the most important ways of managing arthritis and has been found to reduce pain, maintain joint mobility, strengthen muscles and improve posture and balance. We would advise the carer to encourage the person with arthritis to have a discussion with a doctor and/or physiotherapist before any exercise regime is started. Exercise should be a daily habit and it is advisable for a carer to encourage the person with arthritis to move as regularly as possible. It may be tempting to be overprotective but regular movement is an essential part of pain management.
Dealing with pain
We recommend that people living with arthritis try a range of techniques including applying heat or cold packs, massage, acupuncture, relaxation techniques and distraction techniques. Carers will learn to recognise the signs of pain and will know when they need to provide a little bit of extra support.
It is important to find ways to participate in daily activities while reducing pain, stress and tiredness. We recommend for people to learn about equipment that can make daily tasks easier and seek the advice of an Occupational Therapist. This is where a carer can step in and encourage seeking this outside advice.
There are a wide range of non-medical treatments available such as vitamin and mineral supplements and herbal medicines. However, many of these lack evidence to support their use and some have even been shown to interact negatively with common medications. Carers can help by getting as much information on the complementary therapy as possible and encourage the person with arthritis to discuss this with a GP or medical professional.
For more information, download our Caring and Arthritis guide, offering practical advice for carers and people living with arthritis.