A person who is living with arthritis may need more help in the home with every day tasks. Whether you are someone who is helping out a loved one who is living with the symptoms of arthritis or a professional caregiver, there are some ways to make this much easier for both of you.
First, it helps if you can put yourself in their shoes by understanding how arthritis is making the person feel. There is more than one kind of arthritis, but in general it is a condition in which there is swelling or tenderness of the joints.
The Mayo Clinic explains, “The main symptoms of arthritis are joint pain and stiffness, which typically worsen with age. The most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.”
That pain, stiffness, and swelling can be accompanied by a decreased range of motion.
Risk factors for arthritis include family history, age, gender (women are more likely than men to develop it), obesity, and a previous joint injury. Quick refresher: the main joints include hips, shoulders, elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles, but of course fingers have joints and arthritis in the hands can impact a person’s ability to do things for themselves.
As with most caregiving, the ideal is “person-directed” care. This means that the person who needs some help has a say in what is done for them and how and when, as is possible. When a caregiver—whether a friend, family member, or trained professional—decides what is best without consulting the individual, it can create feelings of boredom, helplessness, and even anger or sadness.
As a caregiver, start the conversation by asking where the pain is the worst for this person when you are engaging with them so you know how you can be of help. However, experts recommend not focusing only on pain and their condition.
Learn about their unique interests and then offer activities to help take their mind off of the pain. For example, a scenic drive could be diverting and not require much movement. Or, if they are able, take a walk together when the conditions are pleasant. Perhaps you can just have a discussion about meal preparation so it can be done just the way they like it when they are unable to cook for themselves.
Treating the Symptoms
There is not a cure for arthritis, but there are many ways to mitigate the pain:
- Listen to music. On our resources page we quote author Denise Lynn Mann who shared that listening to music led to a 20% pain reduction—that’s with just one hour one day a week. Research subjects also reported less depression.
- Can you take a joke? Laughter can also help to release endorphins and subsequently lower sensations of physical pain, experts report.
- Check the weather. Both heat and cold can impact well-being, depending on the person so be sure to look for patterns and how to create comfort levels when the temperature swings.
- Watch what you eat. Lose any excess weight, and reach for the fresh fruits and vegetables instead of fried and processed foods to keep the pain in check with arthritis.
- Move your body. Tai Chi, yoga, and walking are all recommended by the Arthritis Foundation to help keep that pain check and joints from becoming painfully swollen.
Learn more about Arthritis Awareness Month and other tips for living well with arthritis at the Arthritis Foundation.