Did you know that there are more than 100 types of arthritis? The most common is osteoarthritis, in which the tissues in the joint (such as a knee or hip) break down over time. There’s also rheumatoid arthritis, which is an autoimmune and inflammatory disease, which means that your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake.
Those and the many other types of arthritis—which are all incurable—can cause pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints. The pain may be slight or require medication. Stiffness and swelling may cause someone with arthritis to avoid physical activity, but that can only make it worse. All of these physical symptoms can make the person more vulnerable to falling.
Besides the physical challenges, arthritis can cause emotional distress, such as depression and anxiety, which can further impact quality of life. Chronic pain and limited mobility can contribute to feelings of helplessness and frustration. Arthritis can also limit social activities and participation in community events, leading to social isolation and loneliness.
If you have a friend or loved one who has arthritis, there are many ways you can be helpful and supportive. Here are some suggestions:
Educate yourself about arthritis: Learn as much as you can about the condition, including its causes, symptoms, and treatments. If your loved one is taking medication for their symptoms, learn about the potential side effects. For example, anti-rheumatic drugs can cause problems ranging from nausea and hair loss to liver damage.
Be empathetic and understanding: Arthritis can be a very painful and debilitating condition, and your loved one may be feeling frustrated or overwhelmed. Try to be patient and understanding, and offer emotional support whenever possible.
Help with daily tasks: Arthritis can make even simple tasks like opening jars or carrying groceries difficult. Offer to help with daily tasks, such as cooking, cleaning, or running errands.
Encourage exercise: While it may seem counterintuitive, exercise can actually help reduce arthritis pain and improve joint function. Encourage your loved one to participate in low-impact exercise, such as walking or swimming, and offer to join them.
Make home modifications: If your loved one has trouble getting around their home due to arthritis, consider making some modifications to make their home more accessible. This might include installing handrails, modifying furniture, or installing a stair lift.
Help with doctor appointments: Arthritis often requires ongoing medical care, including regular check-ups and treatments. Offer to help your loved one schedule appointments, drive them to appointments, or take notes during appointments.
Be a good listener: Sometimes, your loved one may just need someone to talk to. Be a good listener and offer your support, even if you can’t solve all of their problems.
Remember, everyone’s experience with arthritis is different, and what works for one person may not work for another. The most important thing you can do is to be there for your loved one and offer your support in whatever way they need it.