Arthritis can be painful and limit mobility, reducing a senior’s ability to function independently. Although there are no known cures, there are a number of steps aging individuals can do to manage their condition and have more days with less pain.
Severe arthritis pain tends to discourage seniors from moving any more than is necessary. However, moderate, low-impact activity such as walking and water-based activities can improve joint function and reduce recurring pain.
At the very least, avoiding complete immobility will help prevent additional stiffness. Seniors should have a program of moderate daily exercise, including range-of-motion and strength routines. If you are unsure of the exercise that is safe, beneficial and appropriate, ask your physician or your home health aide for advice or assistance.
Every senior citizen should have a healthy, balanced diet, but this is especially true for seniors who have arthritis. Nutrition designed for anti-inflammation is particularly helpful for seniors dealing with arthritis. The Arthritis Foundation currently recommends the principals of the “Mediterranean Diet” due to its documented benefits of reduced blood pressure, anti-inflammation, heart health and weight loss, all of which can ease the effects of arthritis.
A Mediterranean Diet includes plenty of fish, nuts & seeds, fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oil, beans and whole grains.
Salmon, tuna, sardines and other cold-water fish are rich in inflammation0fighting omega-3 fatty acids. If these types of fish just aren’t your taste, 600 to 1,000 mg of fish oil supplements can provide similar stiffness-easing benefits. Omega-3s are also abundant in extra-virgin olive oil and walnut oil.
Walnuts, pine nuts, pistachios and almonds have all been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects. One to two handfuls of nuts or seeds per day are sufficient to reap the benefits, but beware that the sodium in salted varieties may have the opposite impact.
Antioxidants in fruits and vegetables – particularly those rich in Vitamin C like citrus fruits – serve to boost the body’s natural defense systems. Cherries, strawberries and other red and purple fruits contain anthocyanins that are particularly anti-inflammatory.
The fiber and phytonutrients in beans have several anti-inflammatory benefits. Small red, red kidney and pinto are among the richest in such nutrients, and studies recommend approximately two cups per week. Similarly, whole grains are richer than non-whole grains in fiber, making them more filling (yielding weight loss benefits) in addition to being anti-inflammatory.
Avoid processed foods, carbonated soft drinks, candy, corn oil, and salty products, all of which have been associated with inflammation. Alcohol has, as well.
Some – but not all – individuals find their arthritis is aggravated by dairy products. If dairy induces inflammation or pain worsens after eating or drinking such products, ask your doctor to recommend some non-dairy sources of calcium.
Stress – and the body’s natural response – can worsen the symptoms of arthritis. Faster breathing, accelerated heart rate, tense muscles and an alert immune system all have inflammatory effects. Reducing the degree of stress in one’s life can make arthritis more bearable.
Stress reduction techniques that are beneficial for arthritis sufferers are the same as those for the general population, and include therapy, warm baths, meditation, exercise and massages.
Talk to Your Doctor
Your physician may have other options for reducing the pain from arthritis. They can provide guidance on orthotics or support straps that will take some of the physical stress off the painful joints. Other options may include medically supervised weight loss, hot and cold therapies, acupuncture or pain management medication. Your doctor can advise on options with minimal side effects and health risks.
One of the most straightforward ways to alleviate the pain from arthritis is to enlist some assistance around the house. A home health aide can eliminate unnecessary trips up and down steps, in and out of a chair or even in and out of the house. A professional caregiver referred by a home care agency or nurse registry can help a senior keep a regimented exercise routine and can prepare meals specifically designed around an anti-inflammatory diet.
Even a few hours of homecare per day can eliminate several less-than-enjoyable tasks around the house and ensure that nutritious meals are available in the refrigerator. We often hear that clients are hesitant to hire an aide when they feel “with it” or have “more good days than bad”. However, engaging a home caregiver for just a few hours or a handful of days each week can help even more days feel good and can ensure clients retain their independence in their home.
If you or your loved one lives in Palm Beach or Broward County and could use some assistance managing arthritis, give one of our care specialists a call. We’ve been helping our friends and neighbors from West Palm Beach to Weston for over 25 years, and we’d love to help you, as well.