On the occasion of World Arthritis Day, marked every year on October 12, it is important to be fully aware of the potential impact of arthritis on seniors. With a better understanding of this common health condition among the elderly population, it becomes easier to take action and find the best solutions to improve the daily lives and well-being of seniors suffering from this inflammatory disease.
Facts and figures about arthritis in Canada
Estimates suggest that nearly half of all people aged over 65 are affected by some form of arthritis. The importance of this condition among seniors is therefore clear and obvious.
Despite this particularly high frequency in this segment of the population, statistics also show that arthritis can affect all age groups.
According to Arthritis Society Canada, here are a few figures showing the extent of this health problem across the country :
- Approximately 20 % of the population (1 in 5) is affected by a form of arthritis ;
- To date, this means that around 6 million people in the country are currently living with this condition ;
- Sadly, according to forecasts, this figure could rise rapidly, reaching 9 million Canadians by 2040.
In addition its high prevalence, statistics also highlight the consequences of arthritis on the daily life of seniors :
- 4 time increased risk of developing a related global health problem ;
- Mental health problems affecting nearly 1 in 2 people ;
- Mobility difficulties (up to 5 times more frequent than average) ;
- Physical pain that can impair daily activities in about 40% of affected individuals.
Faced with this reality, it is essential to be well informed about the real impact of arthritis in seniors, in order to help each of our elderly relatives regain maximum comfort in their daily lives !
Arthritis : definition and understanding of this medical condition
So what exactly is arthritis ? And how does it differ from other health problems ? Since we believe that understanding is the key to helping, here is a quick summary of what you need to know about arthritis !
A brief definition
In the simplest terms, we can summarize arthritis as an inflammatory disease that mainly affects the joints. In fact, the most common articulations affected by arthritis are :
- fingers and hands ;
- knees ;
- hips ;
- feet ;
- as well as the vertebral column.
As arthritis is considered a chronic health problem, it is not uncommon to see the number of areas affected increasing over the years, as the effects tend to gradually progress over time.
Arthritis vs. arthrosis : what’s the difference ?
Although these conditions could both be said to belong to the large family of joint diseases, some important nuances need to be highlighted in order to properly differentiate osteoarthritis problems from what should be called inflammatory arthritis.
- Arthrosis :
Previously described as an age-related deterioration in joint quality, the most recent definition of osteoarthritis involves an inability of the body to repair damaged joint tissue. These tissue damages may, for example, result from excessive demands on a specific joint due to repeated activity, overweight / obesity or even an injury, and tend to accumulate over time.
As a result, arthrosis is generally characterized by progressive wear and tear of the cartilage (articular surface at the ends of the joints allowing them to slide smoothly against each other).
- Inflammatory arthritis :
In inflammatory arthritis, the main difference is that joint damage is primarily due to the inflammation itself. In this case, the inflammatory process is actually a cause rather than a consequence.
The most common forms are rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.
Although osteoarthritis is considered part of the arthritis large family, it remains important to know how to differentiate it from other forms of inflammatory arthritis, since the onset process of this disease is quite different.
Impact of arthritis on seniors’ daily lives
Whether inflammatory arthritis or osteoarthritis, the impact of all forms of arthritis on the daily lives of seniors may appear to be a significant challenge. In fact, seniors living with this health disorder have to demonstrate a great deal of resilience and adaptability when facing these challenges.
In short, these are the 4 main consequences of arthritis on the daily activities of seniors :
1. Pain : a day-to-day limiting factor
One of the most direct impacts of arthritis on seniors is undoubtedly the pain. According to Arthritis Society Canada statistics, up to 40 % of people suffering from osteoarthritis experience a degree of pain which may limit their daily activities. Pain management is therefore a key issue in maintaining optimal quality of life for seniors suffering from all forms of arthritis, while remaining as active as possible !
2. Reduced mobility and loss of autonomy
Because arthritis affects the joints, which are responsible for movement, its symptoms imply a reduction in mobility and capacity to perform specific tasks. In this sense, particularly for the elderly population, the notion of autonomy becomes a priority. With mobility problems estimated to be almost 5 times more frequent than average, it is essential to identify solutions to overcome the difficulties experienced by seniors suffering from arthritis.
3. Consequences on overall health
Another sometimes underestimated consequence of arthritis, especially for inflammatory forms of the disease, is the interrelation between this condition and numerous other overall health problems. Statistics seem to show that people with a diagnosis of arthritis are in fact 4 times more likely to suffer from other health problems. It is therefore very important to ensure good medical follow-up with your family doctor or other treating professionals, in order to limit the risks.
4. Mental health : an issue not to be ignored
Even if the direct symptoms of arthritis do impact more the physical aspect, it is necessary to pay particular attention to the possible consequences of this condition on the mental health of seniors living with arthritis. Pain and inability to carry out daily activities can lead to disorders such as depression and anxiety. It is also important to be aware of the risks of social isolation in seniors with arthritis, in order to do the best we can to prevent it.
Treatments and solutions
As we recognize the consequences of arthritis, priority must be accorded to ensure that every senior can receive the right treatment and benefit from the best approaches to minimize the negative impact on his or her daily life, as well as maximizing well-being and comfort.
Among the solutions to arthritis and its symptoms, major medical treatments include :
- medication (over-the-counter or prescribed by a healthcare professional) such as analgesics, anti-inflammatories or oral corticosteroids ;
- cortisone injections by physicians or qualified professionals ;
- specific exercise programs to promote gentle movement and limit joint stiffness caused by inactivity ;
- use of braces, orthoses or splints when required ;
- complementary treatments ; physiotherapy, massage therapy or occupational therapy ;
- as well as surgery in some instances.
Since every condition is different from one individual to another, you should always consult a doctor or other specialized health care professional to obtain a precise diagnosis and a detailed treatment plan.
Other solutions for seniors with arthritis
In addition to medical approaches, a good way to help seniors with arthritis is to offer them personalized support to facilitate their everyday lives, and so improve their overall quality of life.
At Visavie, we are committed to this mission ! From our wide range of Home Care Services in the comfort of your own environment, to our free, comprehensive assistance in finding the ideal retirement home to meet your needs, our caring team is constantly working to help seniors and their families achieve maximum comfort and well-being in day-to-day life.
Ultimately, by a good understanding of the impact of arthritis in seniors, we believe it is possible to provide better day-to-day support. Are you, or an elderly relative, suffering from osteoarthritis or a type of inflammatory arthritis such as rheumatoid arthritis ?