Half of over-65s in Suffolk are living with limiting long-term illnesses including arthritis
- Credit: PA
At a time when people are living longer and social care is increasingly expensive, it is in everyone’s best interests to find ways to make independent living easier. To coincide with National Arthritis Awareness Week, Ellen Widdup looks at the solutions available in Suffolk.
Arthritis is not just a condition affecting the elderly.
In fact, it refers to around 120 different diseases that can affect the joints, muscles and soft tissues – some of which affect only children.
Having said that, the most common form is osteoarthritis – sometimes referred to as a “wear and tear” arthritis ? involves the destruction of the cartilage (cushion or shock absorber on the ends of the bones, usually in the hands, knees, hips, and spine).
This can have a devastating effect on the movement and capabilities of those who suffer from it and is one of the most frequent causes of physical disability among older adults – particularly those in their 60s.
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According to the most recent figures, 20% of the population of Suffolk is over the age of 65 and almost half of those have limiting long-term illnesses such as arthritis.
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That is a horrifying statistic in itself.
But experts predict that by 2020 the population in the county will grow by 6% and the number of people aged over 65 will increase by 21%. The number of people over 90 is expected to grow by 40% alone.
This means there will be an increase in the number of people needing care.
Helping people help themselves
A study carried out in 2010 found that more people fear losing their independence in old age than they do death.
And yet, all too often, older people with reduced mobility, such as those with arthritis, feel they have no option but to move into residential care.
A spokesman for Arthritis Care said getting the right support early on was key to giving people choice.
“People have their own definitions of independence,” he said. “Some define it as the freedom to live their life the way they want to. Others might say that independence is living in their own home or being financially self-sufficient.
“For people with arthritis, achieving the kind of independence they want can be difficult. Pain, immobility, fatigue and loss of strength can all be influencing factors.
“However, there is plenty of support available and there are many ways of making life simpler.”
Living with arthritis
Arthritis can cause pain, stiffness, swelling and redness of the joints that can result in a decreased range of motions.
This makes some simple everyday tasks trickier.
Peeling a potato, opening a jar, getting dressed, turning a door knob, operating a pair of scissors, even managing a television remote control can all cause a challenge for someone with arthritis in their hands, for example.
And stiffness in leg joints can make walking a struggle.
So how can people with this condition make life a little less tricky?
Your GP should be able to provide you with the best medical advice on managing your symptoms.
He or she may prescribe medication, refer you for physiotherapy and direct you to groups where you can meet other people with the same condition.
Arthritis Care has branches across the region offering help to people of all ages and people can also access financial support in the form of disability benefits.
On top of this, there is a wealth of organisations that have been set up in and around Suffolk and North Essex to cater specifically for the needs of people with mobility issues. Among these is Peta UK, which is based in Kelvedon. This family-run enterprise, which is celebrating 40 years of business in 2015, developed the Easi-Grip® brand.
Its portfolio of products, which have been designed and manufactured here in the UK, includes a range of kitchen tools, gardening aids and other daily living appliances designed to make life easier for people with arthritis and grip issues.
Feasts on Wheels is another brainwave from a Suffolk-based business.
The company, which started in Bury St Edmunds but is soon expanding into Stowmarket and Ipswich, delivers locally-prepared and cooked hot and healthy food straight to the door of those not able to cook for themselves.
Regular drivers are assigned to customers so a food delivery always comes with a recognisable and friendly face.
Stow Mobility in Stowmarket also helps find solutions for people wanting more independence.
It stocks a selection of scooters, bath equipment and walking aids, and provides a hire service and a second-hand sales department to reduce prices.
Comfort in your own home
Independent living is about having choice and control over how you live your life.
Running a home on a day-to-day basis and caring for yourself might be difficult when you have arthritis.
It might take you longer than others to carry out daily activities such as dressing or doing the shopping – and enjoying your leisure time might take a little more planning.
But thanks to a wealth of organisations and businesses in the region, there are ways to break down the barriers to independent living.
For more information visit www.arthritiscare.org.uk or www.peta-uk.com or www.feastsonwheels.co.uk or www.stowmarkethealthcare.co.uk