Everyone knows someone suffering from arthritis, a joint disease that a staggering 54.4 million Americans have; that equals about one in four. The rate of elderly people who suffer from arthritis is even higher—49.6% of people over the age of 65 have reported symptoms of arthritis to their doctors.
Arthritis is not simply the wear and tear of the body due to age, but the disease is certainly more prevalent in the aging. Arthritis can be a major deterrent in a senior living the life they want to live, especially on their own. However, with some strategy and assistance, seniors can manage their arthritis in a way that best maintains their lifestyle.
For that reason, many seniors who suffer from arthritis choose assisted living, as the lifestyle it can provide strikes the perfect balance between care, treatment and quality of life.
Understanding the Types of Arthritis
Though millions of Americans suffer from some form of arthritis, not many people truly understand what arthritis is. Arthritis is an umbrella term for over 100 different types of joint diseases and ailments, the most common being osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and gout.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative arthritis that occurs when the cartilage between the joints wears away, causing bones to rub directly against each other. Osteoarthritis can cause chronic swelling and pain that can make everyday tasks very hard to complete. Excess weight, family history or even a ligament tear from an old sports injury can contribute to a loss of cartilage and osteoarthritis. This is the most common form of arthritis, affecting 31 million Americans.
Rheumatoid arthritis is an inflammatory type of arthritis, meaning it is caused by inflammation in the joints. Rheumatoid arthritis occurs when the immune system, which normally helps fight diseases in the body, starts to attack healthy cells. More often than not, the inflammation occurs in multiple joints at the same time and can be very painful. Though rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age, the risk increases with age; most cases have an onset of 60 and over. Though this disease is mostly genetic, other factors such as smoking have been linked to increased cases of rheumatoid arthritis.
Gout is another common form of arthritis. Known as a metabolic arthritis, gout occurs when the body creates too much uric acid, which causes extreme joint pain—first, most commonly, in the big toe. Gout normally affects one joint at a time, and it is marked by fluctuating periods of flare-ups and remission. The most common sufferers of gout are men and obese adults. Arthritis can also be caused by bacterial infections, viruses or fungus. Many times, these types of arthritis can be treated by medication, but some can lead to more chronic forms of arthritis.
Care and Management of Arthritis
The decreased mobility caused by the symptoms of arthritis can take a heavy toll on a senior’s life, but they are not impossible to manage with the right care and support. While some forms of arthritis may be minor, over time the increasing joint pain can make everyday tasks such as gardening, driving, cleaning and even writing less enjoyable—or impossible. Many seniors choose assisted living in order to strike a balance between the lifestyle they are used to enjoying and the lifestyle they want to live despite suffering from arthritis.
No matter what type of arthritis a senior suffers from, the doctor’s first course of action may be to provide medication. The medication varies by symptom, but with all medical treatments, regular dosage requires a lifestyle change. A senior will need to visit their doctor regularly and pick up prescriptions from their pharmacy. Since the joint pain from arthritis affects mobility, driving and getting around can become difficult, and seniors may have to rely on a relative or loved one.
Assisted living communities offer easier alternatives. Safe transportation to and from doctors is arranged and provided through assisted living communities as well as prescription pickups. An onsite medical staff in assisted living communities will be there for seniors during their day-to-day efforts in managing arthritis.
Assisted living can provide a means to continue life the way a senior is used to living. For example, many assisted living communities have gardens, in which arthritis sufferers can continue to work at their own leisure with whatever assistance they may need. Basic maintenance and cleaning no longer have to be a burden, as seniors can focus on making these spaces more personal.
Another way that assisted living can help with arthritis care and management is through diet and exercise. Maintaining a healthy body weight, losing weight when necessary, regular exercise, keeping cholesterol low and blood pressure under control are all ways that can help with the pain of arthritis and prevent conditions from worsening.
Assisted living communities offer healthy food options that can be tailored for a person suffering from arthritis. Grocery shopping, cooking and sometimes eating can become painful tasks when suffering from arthritis; these communities provide as much help as a senior may need to maintain healthy eating habits.
Exercise is also much easier in an assisted living community. Experts conduct both group exercise as well as individual fitness programs that can be fun and can be personalized to the individuals needs. The community and support team found through assisted living keep a senior motivated and in the shape to continue living a healthy lifestyle.
The sense of community found through assisted living is also an important motivator for seniors suffering from arthritis. With arthritis being so common, seniors are bound to make new friends and build relationships with people who are going through similar experiences. The 24-hour staff of assisted living communities provide peace of mind for seniors and their loved ones knowing someone will always be there for them to help in times of need.
While living with arthritis can be a challenge, learning and understanding the disease—coupled with the proper treatments and support system around a person—can minimize the effects arthritis has on a senior’s life.