Family Health Diary

As I struggled to open the lid of a jar recently – saved by the 18-year-old son who made it look utterly effortless – it made me wonder how difficult it would be for that to be the norm. If you have arthritis that jar carry on may well be part of your daily challenges, and that’s hard.

I know when my mum had to get particularly non-user friendly medical grade stockings onto her legs when they were getting better from ulcer treatment, it was next to impossible to wrestle them on. Her hands had arthritic joints I am sure – not that she ever moaned, it was not her style – but even with dad leading the charge on stocking wrangling with his relatively non-arthritic hands, it was a mission.

So, I find myself musing on how lucky I am to only have to worry about the odd sticky jar (and have the 18-year-old on hand to help) and how lucky my darling mum was to have her 92-year-old husband on hand to be on ‘stocking duty’. But if you don’t fit into either of those categories and arthritis is part of your life – I take my hat off to you. Dealing with the pain is one thing, but then dealing with the daily life we non-affected take for granted, is another.

There’s apparently 100+ types of arthritis – many more than I ever imagined there to be. Many of us will be familiar with the more common ones, like Osteoarthritis (OA), which in fact is the most common form of it. It’s estimated that over 387,000 adults live with OA in New Zealand. A quick look at Arthritis NZ’s site listed many others in the ‘common’ category like Gout (second) and Rheumatoid Arthritis (third), as well as all sorts of other varieties.  It was a bit of an eye opener to see the breadth of sorts of Arthritis people were dealing with. You can check them out here

With OA in older people almost a given over 80, staving off the pain/ inconvenience it brings to your daily life till as late as poss seems like a sensible plan. Advice on lowering your risk factors is the same messaging we all hear of course for most health things – keep exercising, eat well, don’t overindulge.

Then there’s treatment – medication, natural treatments, diet management, exercise, making sure you’re otherwise well so it doesn’t impact further in other areas of your life and even surgery.

I met a dog up at the local dog walking park last week whose owner swore by a pet friendly mix of chondroitin and glucosamine to keep his best friend’s joints going. As he said, by having the elderly dog better able to walk, the self-confessed ‘equally elderly’ owner then got out and walked, so it was a good result for them both. He wasn’t arthritic- just his dog, but supplements are available for humans too of course.

At the other end of the intervention scale, surgery can be a saviour for some. I recall seeing the terrible pain an arthritic hip joint gave my mother, and the new lease of life a hip replacement gave her. A new hip meant an ability to walk properly again, thus improving other parts of her health, and daily life in general.

If you’re dealing with arthritis – I salute you. It can be a difficult, ongoing thing to deal with. I see NZ sites have some great advice as well as others that have home aids to help people open those darned jars and get the wretched pantyhose on, among other things. I suspect I will be there myself one day… but not yet, and not soon I hope. In the short term, I still have the teenager to get the marmalade jar open!


Written by Jude Dobson

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