Living With Arthritis

Living With Arthritis

Living With Arthritis
When living with arthritis, daily activities like opening doors, climbing stairs and even getting out of bed can be difficult and painful due to joint inflammation. Exercise reduces pain and disability, partly because it stimulates the production of synovial fluid that lubricates the joints. Regular daily exercise also helps maintain a healthy weight and improve overall muscle tone and balance, both which lessen strain on the joints.

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    A , Neurology, answered
    If you need to shower sitting down or if bending to bathe children or pets is difficult, consider attaching a hand-held or adjustable-height shower head to your shower. Hand-held nozzles come in a variety of styles that usually screw into the existing shower connection without any professional help. Adjustable-height shower heads, which may require professional installation, have a bar that the shower head slides up and down on, so that you can adjust the head to the proper height of the user. You will find additional shower options at home improvement stores.

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    Kitchen tools have come a long way in the last few years in becoming simpler, more specialized and, most importantly for someone with arthritis, more ergonomically designed to work with your body and cause less pain. If the tools in your kitchen have been around awhile, consider some of the following:
    • Ergonomically designed knives lessen the strain on your hands and allow you to use your entire arm when cutting foods. Look for a knife with a large handle that allows you to “saw” back and forth when cutting.
    • Use a pastry blender to mix foods or stir and separate ground meat. Its large, thick handle makes it easier to use than a fork or mixing spoon.
    • Create a lower work surface to use while seated by setting a cutting board or cookie sheet over an open drawer at the height that works for you.

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    Concentrate on the important things. Conserve your energy for the things that are most important to you, and delegate or even forget the rest. Spending quality time with your family is more important than having a perfectly clean house or manicured lawn. Choose clothing that does not need ironing; get an easy care haircut; and use pre-cut, washed or prepared items to shortcut meal preparation. Make choices to enhance your life and well-being instead of worrying about the details.

    Prioritize chores into categories like “must be done,” “should be done” and “nice to get done.” Begin each day by tackling the “must be done” items, taking short breaks between them if necessary. Less important tasks and jobs can be assigned to family members or moved to another day.

    Use online, telephone, mail-order and delivery services as much as possible. You can shop when it is convenient for you and not worry about running out of energy.

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    Just as physical activity keeps your body strong, mental activity keeps your mind sharp and agile and keeps you from concentrating on your pain and discomfort. Challenge yourself with word games and puzzles, read, stay informed about the world around you and try new things.

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    Here are some tips to make shopping easier if you have arthritis.
    • Shop online or by mail to save time and energy. In a notebook or the memo area of your personal checkbook keep a record of all mail-order or online company information. You’ll have a complete record of the purchase should you need to contact the company for any reason.
    • Shop early. In your wallet or purse, keep a list of people you need to buy gifts for, including sizes and favorite brands or colors. When you are out and you encounter a sale, consult your gift list and purchase items throughout the year, avoiding last-minute gift shopping or hectic holiday times.
    • Wrap holiday gifts as soon as you purchase them, so that you won’t have to fuss with them as the days become more hectic. Wrapping a few at a time is easier on the hands than doing the whole bunch at once. If you must wrap many gifts at one time, use an adjustable ironing board as a table; you can raise or lower the board easily and sit or stand to suit your needs. Wrap packages in different colors for different recipients and you will know at a glance which gifts are for whom.

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    Shop when the store is least busy. Not only is it easier to shop when you do not have to cope with aisles full of shoppers, but often you can get special services not available during busier times of the day. For example, the person at the deli counter might dice your onions and place them in a plastic bag, or the cashier might break the seals of hard-to-open jars. According to a survey by a national grocery association, Tuesday is the least busy day of the week. However, call your favorite store to find out the days and times that are quietest.

    Inquire about special services to make your life easier. Some grocery stores offer special services to help shoppers select and pick up the items they need. Smaller neighborhood stores may provide home delivery -- simply call in your “order” and, for a fee, they will deliver groceries to your home. Larger chain stores may not deliver, but they sometimes maintain a list of companies that offer pick-up and delivery service from their store. If stores near you do not deliver, you may be able to call ahead and request that the store assemble a few items that you need and have them ready for you to pick up at a specified time. If you would like assistance in getting to and from your car, ask about having a store employee meet you at your car. Call stores in your area to ask about the services you would find most helpful, then patronize those that provide these services.

    Consider grocery shopping online. Online grocers offer delivery to your door of basics, organics and hard-to-find items.

    Many stores offer motorized shopping scooters or wheelchairs as a convenience for their customers. Do not be embarrassed to use them if it makes your shopping trip easier. You can collect items in the basket that’s attached to the front of the scooter.

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    Keep your sense of humor! Having trouble moving as fast as you used to, giving up a favorite activity like golf or using a handicapped parking placard when you shop are not particularly funny. However, putting a humorous spin on everyday observations and situations breaks the tension and puts your problems in perspective. For example, if you drop or spill something and make a mess, say, “I learned this from my children.” If you need to lean on someone to get from here to there, tease that some people will do anything for a little extra attention. If you are embarrassed by the orthopedic shoes you must wear, tell friends you’re trying to set a new fashion trend. (And, why not? Who would have thought that platform shoes and spiked heels with pointed toes would be a fad?) Laughter is a great stress reducer.

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    Arthritis and related conditions can affect your life in so many ways. It might be morning stiffness that dissipates with a hot shower and a couple of pills, or it may be a painful and disabling restriction of movement for even simple everyday activities. Some days it’s easy to cope with the challenges; other days it feels as if it would be easier to just give up and admit defeat.

    Staying active and involved is possible with a little effort and determination. Begin by identifying your limitations. Look for ways to work around your pain and limitations. Learning how to take care of myself has been an evolutionary process that has taken many years and continues to this day. With time and a little experimentation, you will find what works best for you.

    People living with arthritis may also experience frustrating problems with concentration, memory, information processing and communication. If you think any of these thought processes have been affected in you or someone you care about, seek help. Discuss your concerns with your doctor.

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    Keep an emergency kit ready to grab and go. In a small, easy-to-reach shoulder bag or backpack, include the following:
    • flashlight with extra batteries
    • battery-operated radio with extra batteries (To avoid corrosion, store batteries outside of the device or place a piece of cardboard between the batteries and the battery contacts.)
    • extra set of keys for your house and car
    • extra pair of glasses
    • cash, phone card or change and a duplicate credit card
    • bottled water (replace every six months)
    • nonperishable, high-energy food (dried fruit, nuts, granola bars, peanut butter and crackers)
    • duplicate driver’s license or identity card and health insurance medical card
    • copies of your current prescriptions or a complete list of prescription drugs, with name, dosage, doctor’s name, prescription number and pharmacy name, address and phone number
    • your list of contacts, including names and phone numbers of family members, healthcare providers, support network members and key service providers, such as your local emergency management agency, ambulance service, telephone and utility repair, plumber and building manager or landlord
    • list of names and model numbers of any medical devices
    Be sure to store your emergency kit in an easily accessible place near the door, so it is easy to grab as you leave the house.

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    A , Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, answered

    If you follow these basic principles, you will be healthier and your arthritis symptoms will probably improve:

    • Drink plenty of fluids, mostly water.
    • Eat more fruits and vegetables.
    • Eat more cold-water fish.
    • Eat red meat sparingly.
    • Eat fewer processed foods.