Arthritis is a debilitating condition for many older adults, and the nagging aches and pains can feel relentless. It’s interesting to note though that two arthritis patients can be diagnosed with the exact same type and degree of joint damage, and while one experiences excruciating pain, the other might feel only mild discomfort. The reasons behind these extreme differences can include any of the following factors:
Gender: Women simply feel pain more intensely than men, studies show. It’s also more common for women to be diagnosed with chronic arthritic conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and osteoarthritis.
Age: Research indicates that those age 65 and older are more likely than their younger counterparts to report a higher intensity and persistence of pain. However, it’s also true that for some older adults, nerve endings may become less sensitive, resulting in reduced pain levels.
Genetics: Certain gene variations are now being linked to our pain thresholds and our likelihood of developing certain pain-causing chronic conditions. Testing related to genetics and pain is still underway.
Other Diagnoses: Those with multiple chronic conditions may experience higher levels of pain and discomfort from the heightened level of pain signals being created; however, it’s equally possible that pain management techniques are enhanced for those who’ve learned to better cope with the varying symptoms of multiple conditions.
Support: Having a circle of support from family and friends can have an impact on the level of pain felt and how it’s managed. Support groups for specific conditions such as arthritis can also help tremendously.
One thing to keep in mind is that chronic pain should always be brought to the attention of the physician, and never just pushed aside with the thought that it’s just an inevitable fact of life.
For more assistance in helping manage the pain of arthritis, call on the Phoenix in-home care experts at Nightingale Homecare. Just a few of the ways we can help include:
Providing medication reminders to ensure meds are taken on time and exactly as prescribed
Transporting and accompanying seniors to medical appointments and procedures, and ensure they’re safely settled back in at home afterwards
Planning and preparing healthy, nutritious meals
Engaging in physician-approved exercise programs to build up strength, flexibility and endurance
It can be a tricky balancing act for those with arthritis to get sufficient exercise to remain healthy, and to avoid overdoing it and causing harm or pain. To help seniors find that perfect balance, Nightingale Homecare offers the following tips; however, keep in mind that it’s crucial to first check with the physician to get his/her approval before beginning any exercise program:
Always start with a warm-up. Those with arthritis should allow at least 10 – 15 minutes of pre-exercise stretching activities. Good activities to begin with include walking, marching, and exercises to stretch range of motion.
Incorporate variety. Include exercises to enhance flexibility and resistance, to improve strength, and to give the heart a workout through aerobic activity. Recommendations for each type of exercise can be customized to each person’s specific needs, but can include:
Flexibility: Yoga, tai chi, or Pilates (modified as needed)
Strength/resistance: Resistance bands and weight training
Aerobics: Low-impact aerobic exercises are preferred for those with arthritis; try riding a stationary bike, walking, swimming, or water aerobics
End with a cool-down. The warm-up process mentioned above should be repeated at the end of any exercise program as a way to cool down, stretch and relax muscles.
It’s a good idea to have designated times each day set aside for exercise programs, but it’s equally important to ensure that, even when it’s not officially “exercise time,” movement is incorporated throughout the day’s activities. A sedentary lifestyle can increase stiffness and pain in muscles. A good rule of thumb is 1 – 2 active minutes for every 30 minutes of sitting. And even while sitting, add in some gentle flexing/stretching movements, such as raising your arms up over your head and holding in that position briefly, and then stretching out your legs and flexing your feet.
Finally, maintaining a healthy diet, drinking sufficient amounts of water, and getting plenty of sleep will all have an impact on overall health and wellbeing. Older adults should strive for at least 7 – 8 hours of restful sleep each night. If sleeping through the night is a struggle, try creating a more sleep-friendly environment by keeping the room dark and cool, and avoiding computers and TV before bedtime.
For more assistance in helping seniors with arthritis to improve quality of life, contact the aging care professionals at Nightingale Homecare of Phoenix. We offer customized senior care that can include anything from companionship and a little help around the house, to skilled medical care, speech, occupational, and physical therapy, and much more, provided in the comfort of home. Call us at 602-504-1555 to learn more.
A Nightingale representative would be happy to answer your questions or help you arrange for home care that is custom-fit to your needs.