Arthritis is a degenerative disease that causes strain on the joints leading to inflammation and pain. A major characteristic of a chronic illness such as arthritis is how disruptive it can be to your lifestyle. It tends to affect what you eat, how much you eat, your job, your hobbies and pretty much every other aspect of your life. It can seem scary and hard to deal with at the start. The key to getting a handle on the disease is being well-informed of its effects.
Effects of Arthritis
Weakened bones can cause certain changes to the way you look. This might have a negative effect on your self-image. There have been many cases of patients withdrawing from their social circles including family and friends. You may even feel yourself losing control over your body. This may lead to depression.
The disease physically impacts the body by making you feel extremely fatigued throughout the day. Its physical limitation may hinder your personal and work life. Joint pain and stiffness make it difficult to go about your daily activities. There is a chance of financial difficulties arising due to your restricted ability to work. You may require the help of a caregiver, be it a spouse, friend or a hired nurse.
Do not let all this get you down.
There are many things you as a patient or a caregiver can do to help you, or your patient gain more control. Here are a few tips:
Tips for the Patient
1. Exercise More
Exercising effectively can help you increase mobility and flexibility while tackling stiffness induced by the restrictive nature of the disease. Exercise shouldn’t just be looked at as an activity that helps you lose weight. Exercises like swimming, water aerobics, yoga etc. are recommended for arthritis patients.
2. Lose Weight
The extent of pain you experience may be directly related to your weight. If you are overweight, your feet, hips, and knees are bound to be under greater pressure. By losing weight you are relieving your body of this extra pressure. Thus all the bones that have degenerated due to the disease can still hold your weight, giving you better mobility and reduced pain.
3. Try Hot and Cold Therapies
There are a wide variety of hot and cold therapy treatments that can be used to cope with the pain of arthritis. Hot showers in the morning can help reduce joint stiffness. Arthritis patients can also use hot water bags on their joints at night to keep them loose.
While hot treatments aid in reducing discomfort and immobility, cold treatments help reduce inflammation and pain. Ice packs and cooling sprays are great for immediate relief.
4. Massage Therapy
A massage can work wonders on relieving stress and mental strain. You can learn self-massage techniques or make appointments with a licensed massage therapist on a weekly basis. Researchers have also discovered that other than the reduction of pain, massage therapy improves mobility as well.
Meditation is known to help you bust stress, be centered and find ways to deal with life more optimistically. It helps you gain greater control over the disease and endure physical pain with mental strength. It’s especially seen to work well for patients who suffer from depression too.
Turmeric is a spice used commonly in Indian households. It can be useful to arthritis patients due to the presence of curcumin, which has anti-inflammatory properties. Reduction of inflammation can also help decrease pain levels thereby helping you cope with the disease.
7. Herbs and Herbal Supplements
There are many herbs that aid arthritis patients in reducing joint pain. It is recommended that you consult a doctor before you consume any of these herbs.
• Aloe Vera
Acupuncture is another effective method of coping with arthritis. It is not everyone’s cup of tea, so a doctor’s approval is recommended before trying it out. It is a Chinese treatment that requires trained therapists to insert needles in specific points of the body. It is known to restore the balance of energy that flows through your body.
9. Support Groups and Individual Counselling Therapy
It is well-observed that social support plays a huge role in the healing process. Support may be sought from friends and family, or even strangers. Support groups bring together people who suffer from a common disease, meet regularly to share their journey and help others – it helps to know that you aren’t alone in your suffering. Individual counselling can be used by people who require specific attention and do not wish to reveal personal information to a large number of people.
10. Dealing with Depression
Dealing with chronic illnesses like arthritis can be very difficult. It can seem like you are alone, with no one who understands what you are going through. If you ever feel this way, it is important to get help from a therapist or counselor. Medical professionals can make a better assessment of your emotions and suggest coping techniques. They can also help design effective strategies and treatment plans that cater to your needs.
Tips for the Caregiver
A patient isn’t the only one who suffers when it comes to a chronic illness. Watching a loved one suffer can be quite painful, not to mention the high levels mental and physical stress that you have to deal with. It can get especially hard if the patient’s condition does not improve. Here are some tips to help you cope better as a caregiver.
If you are a parent with a child who has arthritis or a parent who has arthritis, here are some tips to help you deal with your responsibilities.
Involvement: Try to stay as involved as possible. Ask about your child’s day, and if there is any homework or personal problems they need your help with. Let them know that you’re always around to help out.
Honesty: Remember honesty is the best policy. It is important to be realistic about the situation and not sugarcoat things to give false hope.
Prioritize: Prioritize what is most important to you and pass on the rest to someone else who you think can handle it. It is already hard enough to be a parent, add a chronic illness to the equation and you might feel overwhelmed. Don’t take on more than you can handle – share your tasks with another family member, friend, or even a hired helper.
Positivity: This is especially important as your kids will notice the changes in your moods. Stay positive for your family and also for yourself – it has been proved that positive thoughts improve the functioning of the immune systems.
Arthritis (particularly osteoarthritis) being a degenerative disease is common among the elderly. If your parent is suffering from the disease, there are a number of things you must consider to ensure that they are able to cope with their condition. Here are some things to keep in mind when tending to parents suffering from arthritis.
New Normal: Try your best to keep things the way they were before the diagnosis. Be sensitive to how your parent feels and treat them with kindness.
Stress Watch: Watch for signs of stress such as fatigue, headaches, back pains etc. Once spotted make sure they are given some time and appropriate treatment for rest and relaxation.
Sensitize: If you live with your parents and children, sensitize your kids to the disease. Explain to them that helping their grandparent is their contribution to the family and not something extra they have to do.
Task Wise: Be wise when delegating tasks to your children. Make sure they are comfortable with what they are doing. Always think about how you would feel doing such a task as a child.
If you are someone who suffers from arthritis or a caregiver, let us know if these tips were useful to you. If you wish to share your experiences, please leave us a comment below.