Impact on home life due to osteoporosis

The extent to which osteoporosis affected the domestic life of those we talked to varied depending on the severity of their condition. Some people, particularly the elderly were restricted in what they could do in terms of household chores and how far they could walk, while others felt that osteoporosis had little or no impact on their lives. Here people described the effects of osteoporosis on their home life and how they have adapted to it (see also Osteoporosis, mobility, driving and transport and Family, friends and support for people with osteoporosis).
Some people who had been promptly diagnosed in the last few years, and either had mild osteoporosis or osteopenia, said that osteoporosis had little or no impact on their domestic and everyday life. Although they hadn’t needed to change the way they did everyday things, like shopping, lifting and housework, their attitude had changed and now they were more cautious about carrying bags or lifting things from the floor. Carol said that now she bends down from her knees and lifts objects closer to her. When bending down to polish furniture, Diana is much more aware of being careful with her back. Only Keith said that he is not consciously taking any more care than before.
Others said that there had been more effect on their everyday life.
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Gardening is one activity that many people said they enjoyed doing because it gave them pleasure and kept them active. But some people, particularly the elderly, said that they were limited by how much they could do or how much time they could spend gardening before they started getting pain. Taking rest periods, sitting on a stool, balancing on a garden fork, were all ways used by people to minimise the onset of pain and continue doing an activity they loved. Several people were no longer able to do heavy gardening work, like digging, lifting pots or mowing the lawn and they either employed paid help, or they relied on family or friends.
Lifting and carrying weight
Many people said that they couldn’t lift or carry weight without feeling pain in their back, hips, arm and/or neck afterwards and therefore they were affected when doing things like shopping. People overcame this problem in various ways. Some people shopped with their partner or friend. However, Robert who is in his forties, feels embarrassed about what others might think when his wife is carrying the shopping bags. Several people said that they order their shopping over the phone and have it delivered to their home. Joan and Betty learned to use a computer and both shop online. Susannah takes a special bus back from the supermarket where help is given to carry her shopping in to her house. Ann said that she makes sure she carries the same amount of weight in two separate bags. Some of the people we talked to said they wouldn’t be able to manage their shopping without the use of a car because of limited mobility, recent surgery and/or fractures. Victoria Iris, who lives alone, is unable to reach to lift items off supermarket shelves so she always asks a member of staff to help her, rather than risk them falling on her. Amongst the elderly people we talked to, only Sydney who is eighty-six went to the town centre twice a week by public transport to shop for groceries and until three years ago he used his bike to get around. Several younger adults also had difficulties with carrying and lifting weight. Robert talked about not being able to lift and run around with his daughter. And Jane who was diagnosed shortly after her baby was born couldn’t lift or carry her baby and her parents and later an au pair had to help her (see also Osteoporosis, mobility, driving and transport and Family, friends and support for people with osteoporosis).
Inability to lift, carry weight and bend also presented problems for some people when doing domestic chores like vacuuming, cleaning and cooking. Several people overcame the problem of cleaning the house by keeping a vacuum cleaner upstairs and another one downstairs to avoid the need to lift a heavy appliance. Ann found changing a king size duvet cover difficult. Some people also said that cooking was difficult, particularly those who couldn’t lift pans or bend to put or take things out of the oven. Standing for a long time preparing a meal or doing the washing up was also painful. Some people said that they relied more on ready-made meals now or cooked simple dishes that didn’t take a lot of time to prepare.
People relied on paid help or the help of family, usually their spouse or friends, to do some of the housework. For instance, Pat said that she does most of the food preparation sitting on a chair while her husband does the rest of the cooking and the washing up. Sarah can no longer pick things up from the floor. Victoria Iris said that until now she has managed to do all her cleaning and cooking but realises that she may have to rely on paid help in the future. Emma has noticed that her ability to lift things has improved since she started doing weight bearing exercises. Relying on others meant that people who lived alone had to save up certain tasks for people to do when they visited.
Some people had to make house adaptations to help them cope better. Garage doors presented a problem for people like David and Noreen so a remote control operated door ensured that they were able to open and close them at the touch of a button. Neville said that things that have helped him included steps with a grip on to hold to when reaching for things, a memory foam bed, memory foam cushions and his armchair. Joan had a stair lift installed. David’s parents put a walk in shower on the ground floor. Several people said that they have put extra stair rails, handrails in their bathroom, added a shower unit and/or built a downstairs loo.
Climbing stairs have become difficult for some people we talked to and a few moved to a bungalow, so making life easier. Others said that they are more careful and they always go up or downstairs holding the stair rail.
Washing and dressing
Many people said that they preferred to use a shower because it made them feel safer and it is easier to use than a bath. Elizabeth stopped using her bath after her husband died and started showering instead. Those who preferred a bath, like Cressida and Neville, needed help when getting in and out of the bath. Several people feared falling and causing a fracture. Robert for instance wouldn’t shower if no one else is in the house in case he falls. A few people also indicated that drying is difficult because they can’t raise their hands or bend down.
For a few people, dressing and personal care can be a problem, in particular bending down and putting socks/tights and shoes on. Several women said that they wear flat and comfortable shoes and had to change their wardrobe for loose clothes and skirts with elastic bands. For Victoria Iris, her Kyphosis made her hairdresser’s appointments an unsafe event because it is difficult for her to have a back wash and can’t cope with a forward wash either.

People’s ability to do things may vary from one person to another depending on the severity of the condition. A few people like Betty and Neville have noticed that their ability to do things such as walking has been much reduced. Sarah on the other hand, has noticed an overall improvement and she is able to do things like getting in and out of her bath (with the help of a grip) and said that she was getting ‘bolder’ and more willing to do things that she had avoided doing since her last spinal fracture, like going up ladders and decorating. But she said that she still can’t carry her shopping without feeling pain. But others do limit what they do for fear of falling. Robert made the point that he doesn’t run around with his daughter and play football because he is frightened of falling.

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People whose ability to do things has been affected by osteoporosis talked of learning to adapt and change to make their quality of life better, Joan said that, ‘I have learned and I am still learning how to adapt and manage to live a very happy life’; Diana said that it is important to learn to relax and pace oneself; James and Robert noticed that it helped to have rest periods during the day; Noreen avoids doing house chores that may trigger pain on those days when she is going out for a social evening. Victoria Iris said that coping with practical, daily difficulties gives her confidence.

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Last reviewed June 2017.


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