Arthritis is a disease that causes inflammation of joints in our bodies, which can cause swelling, stiffness and pain which can worsen as we grow older. There are many different types of Arthritis, with the most common types being Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Arthritis Australia have released a “10 Steps for living well with Arthritis” pdf, with some great advice for those living at home, which we want to share – with additional advice for carers and family members of those living with arthritis!
1. Educate yourself on the disease
It is worth taking time to research and educate yourself on the disease if you haven’t yet. With education comes a better level of understanding the disease, making those living with Arthritis feel more “in control” of it. Having more knowledge of the type of Arthritis being dealt with allows those with it to better treat or relieve pain, know their limits of activity and when to best rest. Carers can also get involved, doing research together with a client to better understand what they are going through and how they can help and work together to create solutions for when pain comes.
2. See a doctor regularly
Following from this, ensuring those living with arthritis see a doctor regularly or as soon as there’s a change in the condition is of the highest importance. Early diagnosis and treatment plans can help limit the effects of Arthritis on your daily life, so it’s worth getting a doctor to perform necessary tests if you feel you may be living with arthritis. Carers can help clients schedule appointments and organise transport.
3. Make the most out of your healthcare team
Whether a client sees a doctor, rheumatologist (Arthritis specialist) or even their carer, they should feel comfortable asking as many questions as possible to get the most up to date information and best treatment to their symptoms possible.
4. Discover your treatment options
There are a range of treatments or lifestyle changes a doctor may suggest. This could be something like physiotherapy or podiatry. Additionally, medicine will be recommended, such as pain relievers and anti-inflammatory drugs. Being overweight is a risk factor of Osteoarthritis, so it’s often suggested that a healthy diet is introduced to a client’s lifestyle, as well as exercises.
5. Keep yourself active when possible
Get moving – regular exercise is an effective way of treating arthritis! Getting a client living with Arthritis involved in physical activity can help decrease pain, increase flexibility, and strengthen muscles – taking the load off their joints. Not only this, but exercising can help most clients since exercise has many overall health benefits.
6. Utilise pain management tricks
Sometimes we can’t just get rid of pain quickly, which requires some education on pain management. Heat or ice packs may provide pain relief to targeted areas of the body, distraction may take a clients’ mind off the pain, or simply relaxing may be enough to get through the pain. Clients should discuss their pain with physiotherapists to get good feedback on ways they can manage the pain.
7. Don’t overlook your feelings – seek support
When dealing with Arthritis or any other disease/chronic health condition for that matter, it’s important for a client’s feelings to be validated and understood. A person living with arthritis can feel frustrated, angry, anxious, stressed, embarrassed, and even depressed, so it’s important that if a client needs mental health support, they have that organised for them.
8. Eat healthy food
We can all do with improvements to our diet – Those living with Arthritis can prepare plenty of food rich in omega 3 oils which have been proven to affect and reduce inflammation. You can find omega 3 in foods like salmon and other oily fish, linseeds and its oil, walnuts, canola oil and fish oil supplements. When helping a client with shopping, consider getting a few of these foods into their diet to help get that omega 3 goodness into their system.
9. Find a healthy balance in life
Our days can easily become overloaded, however a person with arthritis should have a balance of activity work and rest to ensure they aren’t in pain from moving too much. Planning their day is a recommendation from Arthritis Australia, allocating time for activity and then plenty of rest following. If a client is having a ‘bad day’ – feeling the effects of Arthritis more than usual, it’s worth cancelling plans and resting.
Additionally, it’s worth looking into ways you can help a client’s home more arthritis friendly for them. Look at items they struggle to use and see if alternate options exist. For example, you can get adapted cutlery and cooking utensils, which allow a client to hold more comfortably, essentially tools to assist tasks we may overlook.
Check out stores like mobilityhq, who have a range of arthritis-friendly items available for sale.
10. Seek information from local arthritis offices
The final piece of advice that Arthritis Australia recommends is to get in touch with the local state/territory Arthritis Office, as they can inform carers and clients of the most up-to-date information and provide support, services and information.
You can contact an Arthritis Office on 1800 011 041.
You can read the full pdf here. It’s important to note that whilst Arthritis can at times be painful and affect daily activities, it’s possible for clients to still get the most out of life with the assistance of carers and health professionals.
View the full PDF from Arthritis Australia here.