My Personal Journey
Last week's blog post contained some good facts and tips regarding a chronic disease affecting many of our elders: Arthritis. Read it here. May is National Arthritis Awareness Month and it is a topic that is significant to me personally. I have seen the painful effects of the disease in the elders I have worked with. Particularly, in elders who are living with dementia. Imagine how challenging it would be to experience chronic pain but not be able to express or communicate effectively what your body is experiencing and how a caregiver may help! On a personal level, I have lived with Rheumatoid Arthritis for the past 8 years. In fact, autoimmune disease runs rampant on the maternal side of my family. I vividly remember as a young child watching my Bestemor struggle with the disease - most notably her hands, which were severely disfigured and crippled. She was wheelchair-bound at a relatively young age and required increasing levels of assistance as the years wore on affecting her quality of life significantly.
I also vividly recall the onset of my disease. It was acute and painful. I went to bed fine and woke up with two inflamed, burning knuckle joints on my left hand. I excused it as an incident that must have occurred while sleeping. By the end of the day, the same two knuckles on the right hand were inflamed and burning. This can be a typical sign of rheumatoid arthritis (symmetric joint pain). At that point I knew in my heart that I had rheumatoid arthritis. The next morning I woke up to excruciating shoulder and hip pain. My husband was out of town at the time and with two small boys and work requirements, staying in bed was not an option. I'm still amazed at how I managed through that difficult time of running a household, working and waiting for the official diagnosis.
Over the years I have been on multiple treatment programs. Most recently Humira. While this medication worked tremendously, it could not escape my mind that I did not want to be on treatment programs the rest of my life. Fortunately, I have a rheumatologist that understands my desire for holistic treatment and works with me. What has worked the best for me is dietary and lifestyle changes. For the most part, I do not eat sugar, most dairy, and limited carbs. I have also reduced my consumption of alcohol. In addition, a consistent weight training routine has helped build strength. I have also developed a significant self care routine since stress is a sure trigger for my disease. If you are struggling with arthritis, work with your medical team to find a treatment plan that works for you.
For simple suggestions on how to make your home arthritis friendly, consider contacting Thrive at Home and we would be glad to assist you. You can call us at 585-735-9223, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or use our convenient website contact form here.
You can also access more information and resources through the Arthritis Foundation, www.arthritis.org.