In Australia, nearly one in five people live with arthritis. Many people think arthritis is a normal part of growing older, however it can affect people from all backgrounds, ages and lifestyles. With World Arthritis Day on the 12th of October, it is important to be aware and know the symptoms of arthritis to enable early diagnosis and prevent further damage. Specialist in-home care provider, Home Instead Senior Care has developed a resource entitled 'Caring & Arthritis: Practical advice for carers and people living with arthritis' to help educate and inform Australians.
The guide written with Arthritis Australia explains what arthritis is, how it affects people, ways a carer can offer support, tips on improving communication and outlines additional support resources.
"An increasing number of Home Instead Senior Care clients have some form of arthritis and many suffer a great deal from the condition," says Sarah Warner, Co-Founder of Home Instead Senior Care. "Every day through our network of CAREGivers we are able to provide clients with arthritis with support to enable them to continue to live independently at home. We encourage regular movement and gentle exercise to relieve 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."
Arthritis can be managed through the right combination of exercise, medications and lifestyle changes. The Caring & Arthritis resource explores methods in managing the condition and how a loved one or carer can provide assistance.
Medications are a key element in managing arthritis as they help to relieve pain, reduce inflammation, suppress the immune system and reduce joint damage. Carers should encourage the person with arthritis to understand why the medicine is being taken, provide them with a reasonable expectation of how effective it will be, find out the possible side effects and keep a personal record of all medications consumed.
There is not a proven solution when it comes to diet and curing arthritis. However, having 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 body's joints.
Doing regular exercise is important to help manage arthritis. Regular exercise can help to reduce pain, maintain joint mobility, strengthen muscles and improve posture and balance. Carers should encourage the person with arthritis to have a discussion with a doctor and/or physiotherapist before starting an exercise regime. Exercise should be done on a daily basis and it is advisable to move as frequently as possible. It may be tempting to be overprotective, but regular movement is an essential part of pain management.
Dealing with pain
There are a range of techniques to manage pain. This includes applying heat or cold packs, massage, acupuncture, relaxation techniques or distraction techniques (focusing attention on something other than the pain). Carers will learn to recognise the signs of pain and will know when they need to provide a bit more support.
It is important to find ways to participate in daily activities while reducing pain, stress and fatigue. It is recommended for people to be educated 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 external advice
There are a lot of non-medical treatments such as vitamin and mineral supplements and herbal medicines. However, many of these lack evidence to support their use and some even interact negatively with common medications. Carers can help by obtaining as much information on the complementary therapies as possible and advise the person with arthritis to discuss this with a GP or medical professional.
For a free copy of the resource, visit homeinstead.com.au/resources/caring-and-arthritis
For more information, visit www.homeinstead.com.au