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How to manage your arthritis

Arthritis is something we all want to avoid, but it’s increasingly common as we age. It’s a painful inflammation and stiffness in the joints, and, according to the Arthritis Foundation, it’s not very well understood. They mention that there are over 100 different types of arthritis!

Who can be affected by arthritis?

Well, just about anybody. Over 50 million US adults and 300,000 children have some form of arthritis. It’s more common among women and the elderly.

arthritis infographic.png

Source Penn Medicine

What causes arthritis?

Arthritis is caused by the reduction in the amount of cartilage tissue. This can be due to normal wear and tear due to daily activities, but also by infection or injury. It has been found that you are more at risk for Osteoarthritis if you have a family history of the disease.

For an autoimmune disorder like Rheumatoid Arthritis, the cause is unknown.

What are the first symptoms of arthritis?

The most common symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Pain
  • Stiffness
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Decreased range of motion

If you have continued pain like this, it could be due to arthritis and it’s best to schedule an appointment with your doctor.

There are different ways to pinpoint whether or not you have arthritis, and, if you do, which kind it is.

Doctors will use:

  • Lab tests (blood, joint fluid, urine)
  • X-Rays
  • CT Scan
  • MRI
  • Ultrasound

How is arthritis treated?

Although there is no cure, many medications have been developed to help reduce the severity and the pain.

These medications include:

  • Analgesics- Reduce pain, but no inflammation
  • NASIDs- Reduce pain and inflammation
  • DMARDs – Use to treat rheumatoid arthritis
  • Biologic response modifiers – Target protein molecules
  • Counterirritants – Creams and ointments to reduce pain in aching joints
  • Corticosteroids – Reduce inflammation, suppresses the immune system

Surgery is another option that a doctor may suggest.

Types of surgeries include:

  • Joint fusion- Used on smaller joints. Remove the end of two bones and then lock the ends together
  • Joint repair- Smooth or realign joint surfaces to reduce pain
  • Joint replacement – Removes a damaged joint and replaces it with an artificial one. Common for knees and hips

Additional Arthritis Resources

The Arthritis Foundation

MedlinePlus.gov | Arthritis 

 

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What’s Osteoporosis and how do you manage it?

We hear about osteoporosis, sometimes on TV, in magazine ads, or online, but what is it exactly and what is causing it?

It’s a condition that plagues 54 million Americans, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation. It’s a disease that occurs due to too little bone creation or too much bone loss. It’s especially harmful to older people with the disease, as a slight bump or fall can result in the breaking of bones.

The term Osteoporosis means “porous bone”, and when viewed under a microscope it does not appear solid, but rather spacious like a honeycomb.

understanding-osteoporosis-infographic

From NJhealth.org

What Causes Osteoporosis?

There are many factors that can affect bone loss from cancer to blood disorders to autoimmune disorders. Medicines like antiseizure medicine Dilantin, chemotherapy drugs, Lithium, and prednisone have been known to cause bone loss.

Things like genes, age, and sex can also be factors for a risk of osteoporosis.

Autoimmune Disorders

  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA)
  • Lupus
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis

Digestive and Gastrointestinal Disorders

  • Celiac disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Weight loss surgery

Medical Procedures

  • Gastrectomy
  • Gastrointestinal bypass procedures

Cancer

  • Breast cancer
  • Prostate cancer

Hematologic/Blood Disorders

  • Leukemia and lymphoma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Sickle cell disease

Neurological/Nervous System Disorders

  • Stroke
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Spinal cord injuries

Blood and bone marrow disorders

  • Thalassemia

Mental Illness

  • Depression
  • Eating disorders

Endocrine/Hormonal Disorders

  • Diabetes
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Hyperthyroidism
  • Cushing’s syndrome
  • Thyrotoxicosis
  • Irregular periods
  • Premature menopause
  • Low levels of testosterone and estrogen in men

Other Diseases and Conditions

  • AIDS/HIV
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), including emphysema
  • Female athlete triad (includes loss of menstrual periods, an eating disorder and excessive exercise)
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Liver disease, including biliary cirrhosis
  • Organ transplants
  • Polio and post-polio syndrome
  • Poor diet, including malnutrition
  • Scoliosis
  • Weight loss

List provided by the National Osteoporosis Foundation

How Can You Prevent It?

There are several activities you can take part in to help prevent your risk for Osteoporosis. These include changing your nutrition, and exercising.

Foods that are good for your bones:

  • Dairy products (low fat, non-fat milk, yogurt, cheese)
  • Fish (salmon, sardines, tuna)
  • Fruits (Plantains, strawberries, oranges, pineapples, papaya)
  • Vegetables (Broccoli, kale, okra, turnip greens, sweet potatoes, spinach, red peppers, etc)
  • Foods fortified with Vitamin D and Calcium

Foods to eat less of:

  • Beans (Can interfere with body’s ability to absorb calcium contained in beans, might help to soak beans in water for several hours)
  • Meat/High protein foods (Eat enough, but not too much)
  • Salty foods (Causes body to lose calcium)
  • Alcohol (Limit to 2-3 drinks per day)
  • Caffeine (Drink in moderation)
  • Soft Drinks (Colas)

As for exercises, The National Osteoporosis Foundation has a great list of specific exercises you can do that may help strengthen your bones. Check out the list here.


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What you should know about Medicare

Medicare, it’s one of the few things you can actually look forward to as you age. Once you turn 65, all that money that you’ve been paying towards it finally comes to fruition. But what else do you need to know about it?

Application

Did you know you need to apply? Yes, you should actually start applying when you turn 64. The process is long and drawn out, like many things dealing with the government. You have to apply 3 months before your 65th birthday and enrollment ends 4 months after this birthday.

That’s why it’s suggested to start the process early so you don’t need to rush and worry about it on a strict deadline.

If you miss the enrollment period, you have to pay a penalty. This can vary from 10% for every 12 months you delay enrollment or 1% per month.

Here’s a guide to enrolling and avoiding those penalties.

Parts of Medicare

You probably have heard terms like Medicare Part D or Medicare Part B, but what do they mean?

Medicare Part A
This means hospital insurance, as well as skilled nursing facilities, hospice care, and home health. If you worked and paid Social Security tax for at least 10 years, you get this for free! But if you did less than 10 years, you have to pay a monthly premium.

Medicare Part B
This refers to medical insurance: doctor visits, medical equipment, x-rays, lab tests, ambulance, etc. You pay a monthly premium for this coverage.

Medicare Part C
This is the Medicare Advantage Plan. This plan is not provided directly by the government, instead it’s through private health insurance companies that contract with the government. According to MedicareInteractive.org, “Part C is the part of Medicare policy that allows private health insurance companies to provide Medicare benefits. These Medicare private health plans, such as HMOs and PPOs, are known as Medicare Advantage Plans. If you want, you can choose to get your Medicare coverage through a Medicare Advantage Plan instead of through Original Medicare.”

Medicare Part D
This refers to prescription drug insurance. It’s only provided through private insurance companies that contract with the government.

How do you pick a plan?

This is tricky because you now have 4 very different insurances that cover varying aspects of your health. You can choose to stick with Part A which just covers hospital-type care. But if you need many prescription drugs, you’ll want to add Part D.

With Part A, you can see a doctor, but ensure first that they take Medicare.

Here’s a helpful article from Medicare.gov that may help you make the choice.

Social Security and Medicare

If you are on social security, that you should automatically be enrolled into Part A and/or Part B once you turn 65. Just double check to be certain so you don’t miss the enrollment period and end up paying penalties.

Pay for extra expenses

If your Medicare coverage doesn’t pay for every expense, you can get something called a “Medigap” policy. This can help supplement your Medicare plan.


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How to combat isolation for seniors

We love our families and don’t know what we’d do without them. But for many of us that live away from our families, it can be tough to connect and see them more than once or twice a year. This is especially true for seniors, as many of them are not able to travel or are living in a specialized facility.

We want to see them often, but what can we do to help them not feel lonely or isolated when family can’t come to visit?

There are solutions! We will go through a few of them, and describe some that pertain to active, mobile seniors and to those who are living in a special care facility and aren’t as mobile.

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Active, Independent Seniors

For the active senior still living on their own, there are many options for combating isolation. If they can drive, that opens up a world of possibilities. Even if they can’t drive, there are often specialized transport services made just for seniors in certain areas.

Once transportation is figured out, seniors can get out and do things including:

  • Meetup.org
    A website where you can find groups interested in similar topics like books, fishing, knitting, etc. and meet up with them
  • Library
    Heading to the library, browsing for a book, and reading a while is a great way to get out. Libraries also tend to host events and lectures, check their website for more information.

Non-Active Seniors

A non-active senior is one who needs assistance getting around and shouldn’t be moving on their own. For seniors like this, there are still plenty of options for combating isolation:

  • Skype
    Get your loved one a tablet or Chromebook and set up Skype. That way you can have daily or weekly chats where you all can see each other. Seeing a friendly face and hearing your voice can really do wonders.
  • Companions
    Here at Just Like Family, our Companions are the perfect cure to isolation. They will come over to help do routine tasks, or just to keep your loved one company by playing games or doing an activity.
  • Send a care package
    This applies to both active and non-active seniors. Everyone loves getting mail, especially when it’s an unexpected package! You can send some nice snacks, a letter, and maybe a few activities like knitting items, books, or a puzzle.

There are plenty of ways to help prevent your loved one from feeling isolated or lonely. If they live in a senior living facility, being around other people and having planned activities can engage them and really help the loneliness abate.