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Arthritis Care: What Causes Arthritis in the Elderly?

Arthritis, which causes painful and inflamed joints, can affect anyone at any age. However, we tend to associate it more with older people, and this is due to figures stating nearly half of those over the age of 65 will experience arthritic symptoms at some point.

Symptoms of arthritis in the elderly

Arthritis can come on suddenly, or it can appear slowly over time. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Joint pain
  • Joint stiffness
  • Joint swelling
  • Tenderness in and around the joint
  • Heat or redness around the joint.

Some people also develop a fever alongside the joint symptoms, which requires urgent medical intervention. Symptoms will almost certainly require in-depth investigation, usually in the form of blood tests and X-rays. This will determine whether arthritis is the cause of the problem and, if so, what type of arthritis it is.

Treatment depends upon the type of arthritis diagnosed. Elderly care options can be useful for managing the condition as caregivers can help to manage the wellbeing of your loved one. A live-in carer will provide all the support necessary to make sure that your loved one makes the best of every day, there is also the option for dementia care if required.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis occurs when the body’s natural cartilage, which provides essential padding where two bones meet, becomes worn. This is usually considered to be a result of ageing. The damaged cartilage creates pain and discomfort as the two bones rub together.

Osteoarthritis is usually treated with painkillers, either over-the-counter options such as ibuprofen and paracetamol, or prescription drugs, such as Naproxen. Some prescription painkillers cause feelings of nausea, in which case anti-nausea medication may also need to be prescribed.

Older people with arthritis may find it a challenge when opening medication containers. A live-in care worker offers peace of mind, knowing that the carer will ensure that medication is taken as prescribed, helping with tight bottle tops and making sure that loved ones with dementia follow their medication timetables.

Medical practitioners strongly advocate plenty of fresh air and exercise for anyone experiencing joint pain. Gentle exercise helps to keep joints mobile, which is essential for healthy joint function. Yoga is a good option, and Tai Chi is particularly beneficial as there are many classes aimed at older people, some of which offer seated options for the exercises.

Should your loved one decide to receive care, a dedicated private care worker will make sure that your loved one gets to their preferred exercise classes on time each week.

Pain relief is also available in the form of patches and creams which deliver warmth and pain-relieving ingredients directly into the affected joints. Similar effects can be achieved by using wheat packs or hot water bottles to warm aching joints.

Colin and Dulcie’s story

Dulcie is 100-years-old and lives with her son Colin, his wife Mary, and her Carer Sarah. She has dementia and has had full-time live-in care for six months.

We talk to the family about the challenges of finding the right care solution for a fiercely independent woman - and how the positive benefits of live-in care with Sarah has transformed all of their lives.

Rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis can occur at any age, and although it can affect both genders, it is more common in women. This type of arthritis is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks its joints, creating inflammation, which causes pain and swelling. Flare-ups can affect any joint in the body, although it tends to favour the neck, shoulders, ankles, knees, hips, elbows, wrists and fingers.

It also tends to be symmetrical, affecting joints on both sides of the body at the same time. In extreme cases, the inflammation can also reach the heart, nervous system and blood vessels. Rheumatoid arthritis also causes extreme fatigue which occasionally leads to a fever.

Those with rheumatoid arthritis will require regular medical checks to make sure it remains under control. Over-the-counter medicines can prove useful, but in most cases, your loved one will have medication prescribed to them. These may take the form of anti-rheumatic drugs, which slow the progression of the disease.

In some cases, immuno-suppressant treatment may be necessary. In these circumstances, your loved one needs to adhere to strict hygiene rules to ensure that they remain in good health. A home care worker trained or experienced in arthritis care is ideal in these situations, as they understand the protocols that need to be put in place to keep your loved one safe.

Gout

Often described as one of the most acutely painful types of arthritis, gout occurs when uric acid builds up within connective tissue, or within the spaces between joints. Historically believed to be directly caused from consuming rich foods in excess, gout is now known to be triggered by a variety of foods, including anchovies, liver, shellfish, peas, dried beans and even gravy.

Gout can also be triggered by being overweight or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol. However, some medications, including those targeted at managing blood pressure, may contribute to the cause of gout. Gout often manifests in the big toe, but it can also occur in other toes, or the knee, ankle, hand and wrist.

After an arthritis diagnosis, it’s essential to establish what triggers your loved one’s arthritis as this will be crucial in the management of the condition.

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