What is fibromyalgia?
Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes chronic pain that can affect muscles, tendons, and cartilage. It can be best understood as extreme sensitivity to pain, as pain signals are perceived differently, with some harmless signals even being perceived by the brain as painful. If your senior parent has been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, they likely have been experiencing some or all of the symptoms common to this condition:
- Muscle pain and/or stiffness
- Joint pain and/or stiffness
- Digestion problems
- Difficulty sleeping or waking up tired after a long sleep
- Anxiety or depression
- Memory or concentration problems
- Numbness or tingling in extremities especially hands and feet
While fibromyalgia is a chronic condition without a known cure, there are many ways to relieve symptoms. Some suggestions alleviate immediate discomfort, others help seniors identify and avoid triggers, or make choices that can reduce severity of symptoms or the frequency of flare ups. In-home care can be a valuable resource in ensuring healthy habits, and activities of daily living are maintained as this consistency is often the best way to ensure as much comfort as possible. With support, your senior parent is more likely to be eating well, resting more comfortably, and maintaining consistency with their medication.
Home care tips for seniors with fibromyalgia
Good sleep habits can help relieve symptoms by ensuring the sleep seniors are getting is as high a quality as possible. Suggest they avoid caffeine and alcohol, as well as heavy meals before bed. It’s helpful to develop an evening routine that helps your parent relax and wind down, and to keep it as consistent as possible. This may mean adopting quiet activities in the evening hours and limiting more energetic pursuits and busy tasks for earlier in the day. Bedrooms should be comfortable, dark, and ideally used only for resting and sleeping.
Exercise & Eating Well
Exercise can help keep symptoms at bay, as long as a senior isn’t overdoing things. The focus should be on movement, and staying active rather than strenuous exercise. Eating well throughout the day is a good way to maintain energy, but it’s important to remember that some foods can trigger fibromyalgia symptoms in some people. Keeping a good record of flare ups and looking for patterns can be useful here – and this can be where private in-home care can be a good support.
Stress Management & Relaxation
Stress can exacerbate symptoms of fibromyalgia, so creating ways to reduce it will be important in maintaining quality of life. Seniors can explore calm or quiet activities that may help as healthy daily habits, seek counseling to ensure they have support in coping with any stressors or to learn stress management techniques, and explore new avenues such as massage or yoga. Relaxing the body and the mind can both be helpful so supporting your senior parent in adopting these strategies can be very helpful.
Healthy choices can help those with fibromyalgia feel better and experience fewer symptoms or lower the severity of symptoms. However, while this may be helpful, it is likely they will need medical advice on pain relief, and options for the times when pain and discomfort strike. These options should be discussed with a doctor, and other medications noted to ensure complications do not occur when taken together. A senior may need support when asking questions about medications, and in home care can help them keep to a reliable schedule. Taking medications as prescribed is an important part of managing the long term symptoms of fibromyalgia, and can help create healthy cycles of rest and energy that will raise quality of life overall.
Self Advocacy & Communication
Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition that can develop earlier in life, then continue to affect seniors as they age. With no known cure, long term management of symptoms is the best way to manage the condition. This is best done by regular and clear communication between a senior, their doctor, any specialists or other healthcare workers, as well as family members and caregivers. Encourage your senior parent to ask questions, seek more information, and keep regular medical appointments so they can benefit from advice and support that evolves as their symptoms do.
Because fibromyalgia often presents as pain and stiffness, it is not easy or immediate to diagnose. A family doctor may need to consider other conditions first before confirming a diagnosis. They will do so based on medical history, physical examination, blood work, and possibly tests to rule out other possible causes. Ensure other health issues are discussed in detail, as other conditions or medications will need to be considered when discussing diagnosis and potential treatment for fibromyalgia.
It’s important to remember that while fibromyalgia is often mistaken for pain and stiffness due to aging, pain should never be the norm. Poor health is not necessarily a part of getting older, so always bring concerns and questions to your senior parent’s family doctor and ensure they are keeping up with their appointments.
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~ Senior Homecare by Angels Calgary team