In this guide, we will go through everything you need to know about the basics of arthritis for a CDPAP caregiver. This includes considering causes, symptoms, and treatments for arthritis, as well as what a caregiver can do to best support someone suffering from arthritis.
What is Arthritis?
According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIH) official website, arthritis is a joint inflammation. This can result in pain, swelling, stiffness, and loss of function in the joints. There are different ways to treat arthritis and alleviate certain symptoms.
What Causes Arthritis?
No single cause has been identified for the emergence of arthritis. Researchers believe that a virus may be the root of arthritis, one which may initially trigger the body’s immune response which then becomes chronically activated and turned on itself. People with certain genes may be more susceptible to developing arthritis.
Different Kinds of Arthritis
There are different kinds of arthritis. The different types may refer to the location of the joint inflammation in the body and the kinds of symptoms which arise from the specific kind. The most common forms of arthritis are:
● Osteoarthritis Arthritis
● Rheumatoid Arthritis
● Gout Arthritis
Osteoarthritis usually arises in the elderly, in some cases due to a previous joint injury which leads to the development of arthritis later. It most commonly affects the hips, fingers, and knees. Rheumatoid arthritis, according to the NIH, “happens when the body’s own defense system doesn’t work properly.” Its symptoms include joint pain often in the hands and the feet, sickness, fatigue, and in some cases fever. Gout arthritis is due to crystal build up in joints.
There are also other forms of arthritis which are less common than those listed above. These include:
● Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis
● Psoriatic Arthritis
● Ankylosing Arthritis
● Septic Arthritis
● Thumb Arthritis
Symptoms of Arthritis
There are different symptoms associated with arthritis. These will vary depending on the person and kind of arthritis they are dealing with. Some common symptoms to look out for with arthritis include:
● Pain and/or in the joints
● Inflammation in joints
● Limited movement
● Red and warm skin around joint area
Of course, there are many other kinds of symptoms, including sickness, fatigue, fever, loss of appetite, and sweating. Be on the lookout for new symptoms which may develop as the arthritis worsens. It is important for the patient to discuss with their medical professional if any new symptoms emerge.
Care Plan for Someone with Arthritis
If you are a caretaker for someone living with arthritis, knowing what can help alleviate symptoms of the disease is a crucial part of the caregiving process. There are several ways to help with arthritis. These include:
● Exercise: This can help increase flexibility, blood flow, and mental health, as well as reduce pain and promote weight loss which can alleviate pressure on the joints.
● Heat and Cold therapy: Heat helps to increase blood flow to reduce swelling, while cold can help with pain after the joint has been used.
● Rest: As with any kind of disease or ailment, rest is an essential part of maintaining the health of someone dealing with arthritis. This is especially important after performing exercise. The person may need extra support such as canes or walkers.
● Medication: If their doctor prescribes them medication, it is crucial for the patient to regularly take their medications to avoid further complications and unnecessary pain. As a caregiver, you can help the patient by reminding them to take their medications. Also be on the lookout of possible side effects of the medication which the doctor will need to be notified of.
- Falls. The client with arthritis is at a greater risk for falls. Helping them with their activities of daily living as needed may include the use of toilet seat risers, chairs with higher seats and arm sets, and the use of assistance devices to move positions or to walk will help to prevent falls.
- Emotional Support. Helping the patient to stay positive is also important. Helping the family to cope as well may consist of changing family roles and responsibilities. Encouraging and praising when the client does things on their own can help them maintain a positive outlook.
Tips for Caregiving for Someone with Arthritis
As with all caregiving professions, being a caregiver for someone with arthritis can be a very rewarding, yes difficult and mentally straining task. There are ways, however, to make the caregiving process easier, including supporting and being sensitive to the wellbeing of the patient you are working with. Here are some tips to help you and your caregiving journey go as smoothly as possible.
Remember They Will Have Good and Bad Days
Remembering and accepting that patients, like everyone else, will have good and bad days is important. There may be days when your patient is feeling stress, fatigue, or depression due to their sickness, and this can have a negative effect on their overall wellbeing. That being said, there will also be better days, too, and taking time to cherish those as they come is a great way to make the caregiving process as positive as possible.
Try to Make Them as Comfortable as Possible
As listed above, there are many different symptoms which can cause pain and difficulty with movements. It can also lead to dietary changes and weight loss. It is important, as a caregiver, to work to make the patient as comfortable as possible, for their wellbeing, as well as to avoid any unnecessary strain they may put on their body which may worsen their condition in the long run.
Remind Them to Change Positions Frequently
Frequently changing positions is an important part of treating arthritis. Walking and doing exercises as per recommended by their medical professional can be helpful for someone dealing with arthritis.
Rest Between Activities
Before performing any physical activities for their arthritis, the patient should speak to their medical professional for advice on which movements to do and precisely how, and how frequently, to do them. It is equally important to rest between these activities to avoid any unnecessary strain or long-term damage on the joints.
One of the most important parts of your job as caregiver is to stay positive. This means finding out what activities, hobbies, or topics keep your patient as joyful as possible, so you can help distract them on their down days and keep them motivated on their better days.
Taking Care of Yourself as a Caregiver
As rewarding as it is, caregiving can also be a difficult job. It will change your life as you learn to listen to your patient, develop patience, support, and empathy. That being said, it is important for you to take care of yourself to avoid any caregiving burnouts. To avoid this, you can:
● See loved ones on your day off
● See a therapist
● Join a caregiver support group
● Look at resources on the Caregiver Action Network website
● Take a day off when you need it
Remember, you will best be able to care for someone else when you are taking proper care of yourself. Don’t put your own health aside for your work: yours is just as much of a priority.
In this guide, we looked at some of the basic forms and symptoms of arthritis. We also considered the importance of taking care of oneself as a caregiver, and what kind of resources are available to avoid a caregiver burnout. Remember to always have your patient speak to their medical professional before undertaking any physical exercise or other medical support.