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Arthritis & Seniors: The Basics

Reviewed by: MySeniorCare Staff
Last Updated: 4/13/2010 5:20:35 PM

Caring for someone who has arthritis requires you to understand what arthritis is and how it impacts the body.

In order to do this you first need to understand the specific type of arthritis that your loved one or patient has, as there are several varieties of arthritis.

Some forms of arthritis are caused by a natural or a traumatic degeneration of the cartilage around joints, while other forms of arthritis are caused by diseases or disorders that impact the person's immune system.

Types of Arthritis

The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis. This form of arthritis can develop as a natural result of aging and it can also develop in response to a trauma inflicted on a specific joint, such as in a fall or a car accident. Osteoarthritis displays symptoms such as stiffness of joints, gnarling of fingers and toes, and pain in joints.

Another form of arthritis is rheumatoid arthritis. This form of the disease develops as a side effect of an immune system disorder. This disorder causes the person's immune system to attack their own body's tissues, and some of the most vulnerable targets are the joints. The symptoms for this form of arthritis include joint pain, stiffness and swelling. If a child contracts this disease then it is called juvenile rheumatoid arthritis.

Common Treatments for Arthritis

As a caregiver your role is to help manage pain and to help improve functionality of the affected joints. You can do this by utilizing a variety of common treatments for arthritis. While these treatments won't cure arthritis they will help to alleviate some of the pain and stiffness.

A good place to start is the sufferer's diet. You may not be aware of this but some symptoms of arthritis can be manufactured or exasperated by certain foods. When this occurs the person is said to have a food sensitivity. Once identified, the food can be removed from the patient's diet after which time the symptoms will most likely either be diminished or eliminated all together. Saturated fats can also have a negative impact on arthritis symptoms. Lowering saturated fat content in your patient's diet can dramatically reduce the inflammation that they have in their joints.

After their diet has been evaluated and modified the next treatment to consider is massage. Massage is one of the most effective treatments for arthritis in its various forms. It helps to relieve swelling, relieve stiffness, relieve pain, and improve flexibility and mobility. It has also been shown to stimulate the immune system and to stimulate the natural production of pain-relieving chemicals called endorphins.

Be Your Arthritis Patient's Safety Advocate

When you are helping someone who suffers from arthritis treat their arthritis symptoms it is important to evaluate the safety of each treatment that you use.

Some treatments may be effective in the short term for relieving pain and swelling, but they may then lead to negative long-term effects. For example, willow bark and ginger can be used as natural pain relievers by people with arthritis. However, if these herbs are used too frequently they can impair a person's blood-clotting ability, it can irritate their digestive system and they can induce excessive water retention.

It is generally better to take an over-the-counter NSAID like Aleve because you know the product is safe for treating arthritis, you know the contents are regulated by the FDA and you are given a precise dosage guide.

Alternative medicine remedies and treatments for arthritis also have to be carefully evaluated before they are administered. Acupuncture, for example, can be very effective for reducing pain and swelling of the joints. However, you need to select a practitioner who is certified and licensed to avoid being scammed by inexperienced scam artists trying to cheat your patient out of his/her money.

Patient Care Journals

Since arthritis can impact each person differently it is a good idea to keep a patient care journal.

You'll be able to keep track of what the patient is eating, what they are taking in terms of medication and what they are doing in terms of physical activity. These journals also need to document how the patient is feeling each day. You will want to measure their pain level, their inflammation level and their joint stiffness level.

All of this information can help you to help your patient find a treatment plan that is effective for them and for their form of arthritis.

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