Maintaining Independence In The Home When Living With Osteoarthritis

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Osteoarthritis is a condition often associated with aging. According to The Royal College of Physicians, “Osteoarthritis is the most common disease of the joints, and one of the most widespread of all chronic diseases”, and that its “prevalence increases steadily with age”. By around age 65, its effect can be seen in over half of the population. The UK Department of Work and Pensions elaborates on these figures, stating that Osteoarthritis will affect 70% of women and 55% of men at some point in their lives.

The same figures also indicate “at least 4.4 million people in the UK have X-ray evidence of moderate to severe Osteoarthritis (OA) in their hands; 550,000 have moderate to severe OA of the knees; and 210,000 have moderate to severe OA of the hips”. While these figures seem daunting, fortunately, only about 5% of people affected will have a severe disability arising from the condition.

How Does Osteoarthritis Affect Mobility?

When an elderly relative or we suffer from Osteoarthritis, a significant challenge can be retaining our independence in the home. Given that Osteoarthritis can cause joint tenderness, pain and stiffness when in joints that have not moved in a while, continuing to be able to move can be uncomfortable or even painful. Add to that, unsteady joints, a grating/cracking sensation inside the joint when it is moved, muscle waste, and limited movement range in the joints and the ability to be active can be challenged. These effects have obvious implications on a person’s mobility, but over the years, a number of innovations have been developed which provide sufferers of the condition with increased freedom to continue their daily routine.

How Can Independence In The Home Be Improved?

One area of importance that might be overlooked is the ability to maintain mobility in the bathroom.

The main concern in the bathroom will be getting into and out of the shower and bath, which can be particularly difficult if a person’s ability to climb is hindered. A bath lift can be installed to remove this problem, which will allow a person to sit on a seat that then moves them into the bath and back out of it when they have finished bathing. Such seats must also have padding to prevent discomfort during extended bathing.

If a bath-lift is not suitable for a person’s needs, a walk-in bath can be installed instead. This has a door that is opened, allowing a person to walk into the bath. The door is held closed by water pressure and has a seal to prevent leaking. Though held by water pressure, such doors can still open again once the water has drained from the bath.

For those who prefer showering, installing a shower seat and grab-rails to make it easier to enter the shower can be very useful. The seat also allows people to sit down while washing themselves. Shower seats can be installed in existing shower enclosures.

The grab-rails mentioned above can also be installed in other places around the bathroom, including near the toilet to increase the ease of access to these areas. They should be installed at a height suited to a person’s needs and be covered with a non-slip surface to prevent them becoming slippery when used with wet hands.

Turning taps may become difficult as Osteoarthritis often makes it more difficult and painful for a person to use their hands. This may cause concern at not being able to regulate water temperature effectively, which can be especially problematic for those in a bathtub or shower. To protect against burns, temperature regulating devices should be installed to cap water temperature at a safe level, Taps that require less force also exist to enable a person with sore hands to control water temperature. This combination reduces the risk for the water to be too hot.

This article intends to provide information about retaining your independence when living with osteoarthritis, and is written on behalf of More Ability – providers of various bathroom mobility adaptations.

Related links

http://www.nice.org.uk/nicemedia/pdf/CG059FullGuideline.pdf
http://www.dwp.gov.uk/publications/specialist-guides/medical-conditions/a-z-of-medical-conditions/osteo-arthritis/prevalence-gen-oa.shtml
http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Osteoarthritis/Pages/living-with.aspx

Category: Disease Information, Health Risks

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