Safety Tips for Seniors Living With Arthritis
Is an elderly loved one in nagging pain? A troublesome hip, shoulder, or fingers aren’t just indications of progressing age, they can also indicate the onset of arthritis. If this condition isn’t managed carefully, it can potentially lead to serious injury.
There is good news, though. The potential dangers of arthritis to seniors can be minimized through healthy behaviors and habits as well as creating safer living spaces.
What is Arthritis?
Arthritis is inflammation and stiffness in the joints, particularly in the arms and legs. It can occur at any time of life but becomes more severe in seniors. Arthritis can cause infection, injury, or the wear and tear of an active life. There are two major types: Osteoarthritis and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
Osteoarthritis occurs when there is a breakdown of cartilage in joints, causing bone-on-bone contact in movement. It is the most common type of arthritis and affects the entire joint
Rheumatoid arthritis is a disorder that happens when the immune system attacks the lining of joints (synovial membrane). When the joint linings swell, it can cause damage to bone and cartilage.
Any form of arthritis poses a serious fall risk for seniors. The risk of falling is a main reason seniors need to leave their homes. Arthritis management is a major part of fall prevention and decreasing potentially life-threatening injuries.
Keeping a Balance
In minimizing fall risks due to arthritis, here are some tips to follow:
- Over-the-counter painkillers may help your elderly loved one, but opioids should be avoided as they can lead to loss of coordination. Consult a doctor before any medication is taken.
- Make sure your loved one is getting plenty of exercise, which is the best way to maintain the condition of the joints and strengthen cartilage and muscle (especially if arthritis is still in an early stage).
- Vitamin D may help to strengthen joints and cartilage as well, so consider adding this as a supplement.
- Limit your loved one’s use of high-heeled shoes or any footwear that can cause difficulty balancing.
Arthritis can be difficult to manage in addition to other conditions that contribute to loss of coordination. While monitoring arthritis symptoms, keep an eye on the following:
- Is your loved one taking medications, particularly painkillers that cause dizziness, loss of coordination, or mental fogginess?
- Is the senior in your care possibly abusing prescriptions or alcohol?
- Is your loved one experiencing a loss of hearing or eyesight?
- What about impairing mental conditions like dementia?
- Are there other physical conditions present such as diabetes, Parkinson’s, or hypertension?
Mitigating other risk factors like these can help you respond properly to the symptoms of arthritis.
Adapting a Safe Living Space for Seniors
You can minimize the risk of injury and inconvenience by arranging your loved one’s home in a suitable and safe way. Potential fall risks should be cleared away. Here are some helpful home safety recommendations:
- Remove hazards like loose wires, small rugs, or piles of belongings
- Check for slippery surfaces, like kitchen tile or a bathtub
- Install handrails, non-slip mats, and grab bars in bathrooms
- Make sure the home is well lit, particularly on stairs or other places where the floor changes height
Reaching things on high shelves, standing at a sink, or bending down to access drawers are all typical situations where arthritis symptoms emerge. Here are some easy ways to start making a home more convenient:
- Change to smaller and lighter-weight containers for items like laundry detergent or foods
- Purchase supply tools like grabber extensions to help reach high or low shelves
- Provide chairs or stools for strenuous tasks such as washing dishes
- Consider rearranging the home so everything needed is on one floor
With proper exercise, diet, prescribed medication, and modifications inside the home, arthritis symptoms can be managed to a level that still permits independence. Professional home care providers, such as Visiting Angels’, are also options to help seniors struggling with daily activities due to arthritis.