Care at Home for People with Arthritis
Arthritis, which refers to the inflammation of one or more joints, is a relatively common disease that can affect people of all ages, though its most common forms affect older adults. Although there are more than 100 different types of arthritis, the primary and most common three are osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and juvenile arthritis.
Osteoarthritis is also known as degenerative joint disease, and is a chronic condition characterized by the breakdown of cartilage that would otherwise prevent the bones in a joint from rubbing together. This degeneration causes stiffness, pain and loss of movement in the joint.
Rheumatoid arthritis is also a chronic disease, but instead of cartilage breaking down, the lining of the joints becomes inflamed, leading to constant pain, loss of function and long-term damage to the joint which can cause disability.
Juvenile arthritis refers to any type of arthritis-related condition that develops in children or teenagers under the age of 18. The most common type of juvenile arthritis is juvenile idiopathic arthritis, which is characterized by swelling of the joints for six weeks or more.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is generally caused by the general wear and tear of cartilage, which normally protects the joint and absorbs pressure from walking and other movements. This is why it typically affects older people, who have put a number of miles on their joints, so to speak. However, autoimmune diseases, broken bones, or a bacterial or viral infection can also cause arthritic issues.
To diagnose this condition, a health care professional will look for fluid around the joint, warm, red, tender joints and a limited range of motion. This exam, along with several tests and the description of your symptoms, is usually enough to reach a diagnosis.
There is currently no cure for arthritis, since the damage cannot be reversed. However, there are a number of options for treatment, which aim to reduce pain, improve function and prevent further damage to the joint. Medication such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, naproxen or aspirin are frequently recommended to treat the pain and inflammation. Doctors can also prescribe corticosteroids that help reduce inflammation, or other drugs in cases of autoimmune disease.
Surgery is also sometimes a treatment. Knee and hip replacements are often performed in order to relieve the patient from the pain of arthritis, but these surgeries also require physical therapy for recovery.
The best way to treat arthritis is through lifestyle changes. Patients are often told to increase their exercise regimen, since it is known to relieve stiffness, reduce pain and fatigue, while also improving muscles and bone strength. Doctors may suggest low-impact aerobic activity, strength training and range of motion exercises, while heat, ice, water and massage therapies may also be recommended.
Home Care Services for People Living With Arthritis
In spite of medical treatment, arthritis often progresses and causes the person to have more and more difficulty in conducting their usual activities of daily living such as bathing or dressing or difficulty with regular homemaking activities such as laundry or routine cleaning. Busy families may find it to be challenging to keep up with theses needs. These families can benefit from the assistance of a home care aide or homemaker.
When surgery is the chosen treatment, the person can expect to need physical therapy and occupational therapy treatments for many weeks once the surgery is completed. Much, if not all, of the therapy treatment plan can be provided in the home.