Osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, is one of the most common diseases found in the elderly. It affects over 30 million adults in the United States and is characterized by swelling, pain and stiffness in the affected joints. It results from the degeneration of the cartilage that lies at the end of bones and between joints—the shock absorbers of the body—and can eventually result in bone rubbing against bone. Fortunately, there are some steps your parent can take to diminish the pain and disability associated with this disease.
- Exercise. Though this will be the last activity your parent will feel like doing, it is the first one they should consider. Exercise strengthens the muscles that surround joints and helps stabilize them. It also increases flexibility, stamina and balance. Good choices when faced with this disease include tai chi and water aerobics as well as swimming.
- Lose Weight. Just a little bit of extra weight can dramatically increase the pressure on painful joints. Losing weight can decrease the symptoms and help your parent remain active. Take small steps such as limiting refined, packaged and processed foods and increasing vegetables and fruits.
- Physical Activity Programs. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends physical activity programs. These include Active Living Everyday—a group that focuses on helping sedentary people become physically active; EnhanceFitness—an exercise program proven to increase strength and elevate mood; Fit & Strong!—offers stretching, balance, aerobic and endurance exercises; Walk With Ease—a program developed by the Arthritis Foundation (AF); Arthritis Foundation Aquatic Program—a water exercise program created by the AF and the Y. Check with your parent’s local Area Agency on Aging for particular programs in their area.
- Topical applications for painful joints include hot and cold packs. Apply alternatively for 20 minutes each. The ice takes down the inflammation while the heat relaxes the surrounding muscles. Some people prefer one over the other for pain control. Apply topical ointments with capsaicin (a derivative of cayenne peppers) or salicylate (a derivative of salicylic acid found naturally in plants and one of the effective ingredients of aspirin).
- Assistive aids such as splints, braces, canes and walkers can help support painful joints. Check with a physical therapist for recommendations and fittings.
- Massage therapy and acupuncture have been shown to ease the pain of arthritis. Scientists evaluated clinical studies on the effectiveness of alternative medicine. Both acupuncture and massage received 5s—the top score for efficacy.
Senior Care Provider
If your loved one is having difficulty performing the everyday activities of living, consider obtaining the services of a senior care provider. They can also provide transportation to exercise classes, prepare joint-healthy meals and accompany your parent on daily walks, helping them lead a healthy lifestyle despite the changing conditions that aging brings.
When you are in need of care for a senior loved one, consider home care provided by Golden Heart Senior Care. We have offices nationwide. For more information, call us today at (800) 601-2792.