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May is National Arthritis Awareness Month
National Arthritis Awareness Month aims to bring awareness to the growing prevalence of arthritis, the need for additional research and advocacy, and to encourage physical activity among the millions of adults with arthritis. One of the best ways we can do this is by educating ourselves and our loved ones with arthritis. Arthritis is especially prominent in older adults, and sharing new information may help in managing the disease.
 
Arthritis is one of the leading causes of disability among older adults in the United States. Arthritis and other rheumatic conditions affect the joints and surrounding connective tissues. Damage to these areas can cause pain, aching, and stiffness. The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis, which occurs when the flexible, protective tissue at the ends of bones wears down.
 
It’s important to address manageable risk factors in older adults to promote quality of life and functional independence. Evidence supports the fact that engaging in aerobic and muscle-strengthening exercise reduces pain, increases function, improves quality of life, and delays disability among people with arthritis.

Here are some ways that older adults can live better with arthritis: 

  1. Exercise.

    Research shows that people can and should exercise when they have arthritis. Moving your body can help lubricate joints so they are more flexible, and strengthening the muscles around your joints can reduce the amount of pressure they have to support. Try gentle, low-impact activities like walking or swimming.
  2. Decrease body weight.

    Taking off extra weight can sometimes help to minimize the effects of arthritis. Losing weight can alleviate excess force placed on your knees. Work with your healthcare team to determine the best approach to weight loss and to establish realistic goals.
  3. Change the foods you eat.

    Diet can also help relieve arthritis pain, especially those with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Try adding fruits, veggies, and fatty fish into your diet. Avoid foods that can cause inflammation and exacerbate symptoms, such as sugar, processed meats, and refined flour.
  4. Home modifications.

    There are numerous home modifications that can make it easier for seniors with arthritis to live independently.

    A. Raising the height of seats, toilets, and bed in your home can help those with arthritic knees. This will make it easier to transfer from a seated to standing position without straining.

    B. Kitchen devices can alleviate the pressure on your wrists and finger joints. Try a food processor in lieu of chopping and grating certain foods to save time and effort. If you struggle to open jars, purchase an electric can or jar opener.

    C. Arthritis can make living at home a safety risk. Remove throw rugs and clutter from walkways, and install slip mats on stairs and guard rails on outdoor steps. If needed, consider a stair lift or ramp to make it easier to remain in your current home.
  5. Medications.

    Doctors treat osteoarthritis with anti-inflammatory medications, including over-the-counter options such as Ibuprofen and aspirin. Always be sure to discuss the use of these medications with your doctor.  
As always, before employing any of these interventions, talk to your healthcare team. You’re more likely to live well with arthritis and increase functionality if you and your healthcare professionals make informed decisions together. They can keep you up to date on the latest medical advances, track your progress, and make sure you’re receiving the best treatment.
 
Happier at Home advocates for your loved one maintaining independence and increasing quality of life while remaining in the home. Our caregivers can help your loved one to live well with arthritis by monitoring and encouraging exercises, preparing a healthy anti-inflammatory meal, and to keep you safe inside your home.
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