Arthritis in Our Elders

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By Susan Heckler

Arthritis is actually an umbrella term as there are many different kinds of arthritis; each with different symptoms and treatments. Most types of arthritis are chronic. Half of all people age 65 and older are troubled by this disease.

The warning signs that you might have some form of arthritis if you have lasting joint pain, joint swelling or stiffness, tenderness or pain when touching a joint, problems using or moving a joint normally, or warmth and redness in a joint. If any one of these symptoms lasts longer than 2 weeks, it is time to see your doctor.

Each kind of arthritis is handled a little differently. There are some shared treatment choices such as rest, exercise, and eating a healthy and well-balanced diet. Patients need to learn the right way to use and protect their joints.  Wearing the right shoes and a cane can help with pain in the feet, knees, and hips when walking to avoiding injuries and maintaining comfort. Nowadays you can find great gizmos and gadgets to help in your day to day activities; they can help pull zippers, others help to button a shirt, and still others can help open jars or extend a person’s reach, thereby putting less stress on joints. Doctors can recommend medications to relieve pain and stiffness.

Exercise is a good way to stay fit, keep muscles strong, and control 
arthritis symptoms. Daily exercise, such as walking or swimming, helps keep joints moving, lessens pain, and makes muscles around the joints stronger. Range-of-motion exercises, strengthening exercises, Aerobic or endurance exercises should be considered with medical supervision.  Your doctor will let you know which is the best type of exercise to pursue for your condition. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) has a free 80-page booklet on how to start and stick with a safe exercise program as well as a 48-minute companion video.

Some symptoms of arthritis can be manufactured or exasperated by certain foods. When this occurs the person is said to have food sensitivity. When identified, the food can be removed from the 
patient’s diet after which time the symptoms will most likely either be diminished or eliminated. Saturated fats can also have an adverse effect on arthritis 
symptoms. Lowering the saturated fat content in their 
diet can radically diminish the inflammation that they have in their joints. Reducing weight will alleviate some of the stress on joints too.

Many sufferers find relief in applying either heat or cold, or both, sequentially. Heat can be applied with a warm pack, a warm bath, electric heating pad or blanket, warm lamp, or hydro collator pack;  all of which help relax the muscles. Other ways of making things warm and soothing are to use flannel sheets, raise the thermostat, or heat up clothes in the dryer for a minute or two before putting them on.

Communication is key; be aware of their symptoms and treatment and alert their medical professional to any changes to be sure your loved one is getting the best possible care.