An astounding 49.6% of people over the age of 65 have been diagnosed with an arthritis related illness by a rheumatologist or other medical doctor. By 2040, an estimated 78 million (approximately 26%) US adults aged 18 years or older are projected to have doctor-diagnosed arthritis.
Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, which most commonly onsets later in life, usually affects the hands, knees and hips due to degenerative changes in cartilage. Despite adequate treatment, some types of arthritis will still progress and cause joint damage eventually leading to loss in mobility. Significant joint damage, especially in the knees and hips, can lead to mobility problems and limitations that require a wheelchair and/or surgery.
As adults age, the options to treat osteoarthritis become more limited. For some patients, a joint replacement is the best course of treatment of their osteoarthritis, however this option is not available to everyone. Due to additional medical conditions that may cause complications during a joint replacement procedure, many patients find that their physicians will not approve the surgery and they must seek other treatment options. Patients who are unable to undergo a joint replacement as a from of treatment must manage the symptoms and pain with the aid of pharmaceuticals, mobility products and physical therapy.
With the progression of arthritis and the increase of inflammation in the joints, many rheumatologists and other medical doctors will advise the use of a wheelchair for their patients. The use of canes and walkers may suffice for a period, but as the pain gets worse during movement, a wheelchair becomes the most logical options. Adapting to life in a wheelchair due to mobility complications and limitations can sometimes be an easy transition for arthritis sufferers who have battled pain when they tried to walk. For them, a wheelchair is a tool for regaining their independence, their freedom and even helping them find joy in life again. Arthritis patients can find solace in their new wheelchairs because they are finally able to move and enjoy life again with minimal pain. Many people who suffer from mobility limitations due to arthritis have found themselves home bound or even bedridden because of the pain caused by moving when they tried to walk was simply unbearable. Wheelchairs allow them to move again, leave their homes and even travel to places they never thought possible.
Select the correct wheelchair, cane or walker for your mobility abilities
Your rheumatologist or primary care physician will be able to help determine if you need to be in a wheelchair or if a walker and/or cane will suffice.
Should a cane be the best option for you, consider a cane that is adjustable and that has replaceable tips as they can lose grip, tread and deteriorate over time. Cane tips should be replaced at the first sign of poor conditions.
A simple, standard walker can change an arthritis suffer’s life significantly, simply by offering support and extra stability. All walkers are not made equally, so check to ensure the walker is the correct size (child, adult or large adult), height and width.
If a wheelchair is determined to be the best mobility tool for your mobility needs, you will want to discuss your lifestyle and living arrangements with your provider to select the best style wheelchair for you. As osteoarthritis affects the knees, hips and hands most frequently, a manual wheelchair may not be the best option for everyone. Manual wheelchairs are not ideal for those who live alone or do not have a regular caretaker to assist them.
Educate your loved ones on the proper use of your wheelchair
Adapting to your new lifestyle and freedom from your wheelchair takes an effort from not only you the user, but those around you too. Talk to your loved ones, caretakers and those who spend significant time around you and tell them how you would like or wouldn’t like their help when it comes to using your wheelchair. For some, a wheelchair is an extension of them and the thought of someone touching or assisting them in their wheelchair is a sensitive subject. For others, especially new wheelchair users and manual wheelchair users, they welcome assistance from others. You will also want to show those commonly around you, how to repair or operate your wheelchair in case of an emergency.
Upgrade your home to cater to your new independent lifestyle
Adapting your home to your new independent lifestyle requires more than just installation of stairlifts or ramps, sometimes the most commonly used areas must be upgraded too, such as toilets, bathroom mirrors, showers, kitchen counters and dining room tables. We advise speaking with a mobility specialist and scheduling an in-home evaluation to determine what in-home upgrades are necessary for proper wheelchair use in your home.
Ask questions about accessibility for you and your wheelchair
Before heading out the door you may want to look into what wheelchair accessibility options are in place at your final destination. Ask about where the handicap and wheelchair parking spaces are located, is there a wheelchair ramp at the main entrance or is there an alternative entrance, are the wheelchair accessible restrooms and if you are dining out, ensure to reserve a wheelchair friendly table. If you’re traveling in a wheelchair on a flight, you will want to notify the airline of your wheelchair and accessibility needs prior to arrival at the airport and consider arranging for an airline representative to assist you throughout the airport, including getting through security, ticket access and transfer to your correct gate.
Allow for extra travel time whenever you leave your home
You will always want to allocate some additional time to load and unload your wheelchair with a car lift or secure your wheelchair inside an accessible van. Consider additional time if your destination is known for having limited wheelchair accessible parking or their wheelchair access ramps and/or lifts can be found elsewhere than the main entrance. Many older buildings may have ramps and lifts in the rear or side entrance to the building. Again, you will want to call ahead and determine how “wheelchair friendly” their space is, especially if this is your first time visiting that particular place. Every wheelchair user, regardless of the reason they are in a chair, will have certain obstacles they have to overcome in order to adapt and effectively use their new mobility product(s). Educate yourself and your loved ones of your wheelchair accessibility, including what help you need to get around and what things you can do yourself. Communication is key, especially if using a wheelchair is new to you and to those around you. Ask your doctor questions, consider in-home upgrades and select an accessible van or car lift for you specific wheelchair. Independent living for arthritis patients is possible with the help of a wheelchair. We advise you ask your rheumatolgist about the best options for your mobility limitations.
When you’re ready to regain the freedom of mobility with your new wheelchair, both throughout your home and beyond, Patriot Mobility is ready to help. We offer VMI Accessible Vans, Wheelchair Ramps, Stairlifts, and Vertical Platform Lifts and can help you choose what you need to life your life to the fullest.