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.

Chris is more careful about everything she does and she plans ahead.

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Age at interview: 52
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 45
Have you changed your behavior or your attitude in any way following this fracture? Are you more careful?
Oh, yes, I am, I am a lot more careful. I look where I’m going. And the paths, you know, have bumps in them and all sorts of things, holes and the like. And I look down instead of across like I used to. I, you know, in fact when I had my fall, for several, well, I was laid up for several months. I should have had physiotherapy prior to when I did. I became an urgent case. I got overlooked. But I lost complete confidence. It sounds daft, but I lost complete confidence in walking, you know, and being careful and looking after myself. I’m a bit better now, I mean I’m a lot better now. But it’s taken me quite a while to regain that confidence.
And what about regarding lifting, carrying things now?
I’m careful. I mean I’ll, I’ll carry things. But if I see a thing’s too heavy and it needs carrying, I’ll wait until I have a visitor who’s able, to ask them to do it. That’s what I do. I can’t do it. You know, I’ve got to be careful. I’m, I’m more careful, I’m going to do some decorating soon. My father wants to help me. And, you know, I think twice about going up a ladder and that sort of thing, because the consequences of me falling are that much more than anyone who’s got non-osteoporotic bones. And, you know, you just have to be that much more careful.
What other things are you sort of paying more attention to now?
I’m definitely paying more attention to my footwear because of my ankle. I can never find shoes that are comfortable enough. Presumably that will get better as time goes on. Carrying and lifting things obviously.
Bending? What about bending?
Oh, bending, yes, I’m much more aware of the strain on my back and I sort of try and bend my knees. But my ankle, you know, I have to be careful because the strain on that. I’m just generally far more careful about everything I do. I think ahead more, you know. Normally I, you know, when I, even didn’t, even after I was being diagnosed with osteoporosis I didn’t think ahead too much. But having had this accident, I think ahead. I don’t want to go through that again.

Keith said that his mild osteoporosis has had no effect on his ability to do everyday things.

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Age at interview: 55
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 54
Has your Osteoporosis affected your life in any way?
No not really ‘cos it’s something I can’t see so, you know I mean I’m not, and I’m certainly you know I’m not sort of you know, I’m not consciously taking more care, you know, in what I do you know? I still climb mountains you know, I mean, and yeah the fact that my mother’s, you know had it for years and never broken a bone, so it’s well you know maybe you know you know maybe that’s, that’s true you know, that’s going to be true with me to. You know Professor [name] said it was only mild Osteoporosis, you know?
Osteoporosis? No I don’t think so, I mean, yeah I mean I’m probably a fairly laid back about these sorts of things anyway, and I thought well, its, you know, it’s not, first of all it’s not causing me any, it has no side effects at all. The Osteoporosis I’m talking about, not the testosterone. The Osteoporosis is having no side effects. Everyone tells me that you seem to be fine, you know, there’s been no effect on my height or anything, you know, plus it’s only mild. My GP you know my GP wasn’t you know wasn’t terribly worried, so well you know you know you’re fit and you’re healthy, and you know you don’t you know you’re not a heavy drinker, you don’t smoke, and you know and, so I think it’s something we obviously we need to keep an eye on, but you know, it’s you know your condition isn’t serious yet. You know and we can reverse it, you know? You know we can get treatment so, obviously if I’d gone and you know broken my hip I might think differently, but [laugh].
Others said that there had been more effect on their everyday life.

Pain affects Dennis’s ability to do everyday activities around the home.

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Age at interview: 59
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 55
It's literally, literally get on with it. Live your life. And do as much as you can and stop when the pain comes. And which to me, I like my garden and I can do about half an hour sitting down. I have a little stool and after half an hour the pain is acute, especially down my legs, but if I rest for about an hour I can go and do another half an hour and I do that two or three times a day, but it is painful.
Okay. So there are things you have had to change to your daily routine?
Oh definitely.
Can you tell me more about those?
Well just going down to the local shops, you know, that, that’s hard, you know, and I've got to be quite truthful, most of the time I drive down there, but it's a point of being able to park. That's one good thing I can drive. Otherwise I'd be a prisoner. You know, I get down to the local shops and I have to sit down before I start on my trip back and that's only about a hundred yards away. But it does get very painful. And when I sit down the pain eases off but it takes about half an hour to go completely. But it really does affect your knees. When you go to stand up you get a lot of pain in your knees. And in the backs of your legs. Hopefully if the spine fuses that will all go.
Okay so what else do you do when you have this pain apart from resting?
If it's really bad, I go to bed and lie out flat, but most of the time I can get rid of it by just sitting down on a comfortable seat, on a soft seat. I can’t sit on hard seats. In the dining room we've to load it with cushions for me to sit there because anything hard pushing in the back of your legs is very painful.
Okay. So doing some leisure activities like gardening has changed?
Oh definitely.
Going to … walking to the shops?
Shops definitely, yeah. Going up and down stairs as well that is quite painful. But I, I do it quite often.
Anything else that you needed to change with sort of doing things around the household?
I can’t do anything. I can’t do any decorating or anything like that. We were putting curtains up in the dining room. My wife couldn’t reach so I said I'll do it. So I went to tread on the ladder and I couldn’t lift my leg up and I fell backwards. Luckily enough I had the brace on and I hit the dining room table and it stopped me from falling. So I can’t climb a ladder. I haven’t attempted it since [laughs]. It didn’t really hurt. I didn’t hurt myself, it's just that I couldn’t balance on one leg and get pressure to pull myself up on the ladder.
Were you worried you might have broke something after that?
No, because it was the fall was taken by this brace, so I wasn’t worried about it. I did come and sit down for about an hour before I attempted to move again, but I had no additional pain or anything through it.
But it literally stops you doing everything, even washing up, most of it goes in the dishwasher, but things that can’t. I can’t stand at the sink and wash up for my wife. Because if I stand for about five minutes I'm in agony. I'm much better walking although after about 50 yards it gets painful. It does make an awful lot of difference to your life. I suppose I don’t notice it as much, suffering with depression and being agoraphobic, slightly agoraphobic I have b
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.

Neville is unable to do as much gardening as he used to and he now relies on his sons or...

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Age at interview: 74
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 69
Tell me a little bit about these things that you have stopped doing in order to take care of your bones.
Cutting the lawns is one thing I’ve stopped doing. Because I’ve got lawns at back and front of the house, a rather big lawn at the back of the house, and it makes me very tired now if I try to do that. So the boys always do that. Lifting. I’m very careful what I lift now. And bending. I came down on, I get down on my knees now instead of trying to bend over and picking something up. I suppose, so it has altered my life in some respects I suppose over the years. But I try as best as I can to carry on as best as I can.
We have talked about sort of you not being able to do your garden?
Yes, that’s a very, in that respect, yes, it’s all, it has affected me, not able to do a lot of things like climbing ladders and things like that. I’m terrified of doing anything like that in case I slip, doing anything like that. And doing any heavy lifting and, and a lot of gardening. Digging. A thing, I can’t do that sort of thing any more. I used to do everything like that. Now I have to rely on my sons to do it for me, or my grandchildren, one of my grandsons. So that’s it’s affected me in some ways, but in other ways I just carry on as normal.
Sometimes it worries me when I can’t, I get annoyed with myself because I can’t do what I used to be able to do because of the, the, basically the back pain. And one minute I get pains in my leg also if I, you know, I get pains all over at times. And I get frustrated because I can’t do things I used to be able to do, especially my garden, which is my pride and joy. And if I want, I grow all my, I grow all my own plants from seed. And now, where once upon a time I used to just stand at my, in my greenhouse and prick all my plants out, I have to sit down and do them now because of the pain, the back pain and my legs hurt. So that’s one thing that annoys me. But quite often I’ll bring my plants down in the house and sit down in the house and do them while I’m sitting down.
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).

Joan and her husband have found ways to overcome difficulties with cooking and shopping. A stair...

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Age at interview: 88
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 74
Joan' Oh yes, I can’t do what I could do a couple of months ago, or six months ago. There are things that are getting... that bit harder all the time. And of course my breathing is not what it was a few months ago. So that’s getting worse all the time.
Okay when you were first diagnosed with osteoporosis were you able to do most things?
Joan' Oh yes. I was doing everything then and I mean it’s only gradually that it has gone worse and worse.
I mean I still manage to see to the food, get the dinner, cook the dinner and then [husband] dishes it up because I’m afraid of using the handle, the saucepans, there’s something wrong with my shoulder at the moment. I can’t lift the saucepans and turn it. So he now dishes the food out.
And what about standing up. Can you stand up for a little bit?
Joan' No. Yes, but not for long. Not for very long.
Joan' So most of the stuff, and of course we buy a lot of these ready made meals. So that’s just a matter of putting it in the oven.
What other equipment do you have in the house to help you?
Joan' Nothing much else. Oh the zimmer.


Husband' The zimmer. And walking sticks and me. Like going down the steps I used to do. They are so tricky and Joan daren’t think about walking down them, unless I was on the steps with her. We negotiate those with the walking stick and my arm. And the car is two yards away, so it’s a couple of steps and she’s into the car and then when we get to the supermarket I go and fetch one of their chairs then and bring it round to the door, sit her on it, and then on the run we go. We come back like a Christmas tree with stuff all over it. But we manage and it’s a bit exciting the that’s the thing. We think we’ve beat it, we’ve won.
Husband' We have a stair lift. So Joan can go upstairs without any problems. Without being in danger of falling, which gives her a bit, shall we say, a bigger horizon than just staying down here in one room. Then we have a bath lift. Which again is a marvellous idea. And with a wheelchair thank goodness I can still drive. We’re able to move about a bit. Without it life would be very difficult wouldn’t it. All of this we did ourselves.
You didn’t have any help from…?
Joan' No.
Husband' No we did it ourselves.
Joan' We paid for the stair lift ourselves. We put the bath lift in ourselves. At least my husband has got it and done it.

Sydney takes the bus to go shopping for groceries but he always goes at less busy times so that...

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Age at interview: 86
Sex: Male
But, I’m lucky now because this chap still goes round and gets me some odds and ends, you know, he’s not very, a fit chap himself you know? He comes in Tuesdays as well.
So he brings you your, some of your groceries?
He will, bread and milk and, you know, the essentials because I can only manage a certain amount of, to carry you know? Yeah. I carry more than I should really but I just put the bag down and I have a rest on the way [laughs] because it’s [supermarket] as well is quite a walk, the bus stop.
Yeah so you go
Go home.
to town?
I go, Saturday morning is the best time to go I catch the nine… because your pass don’t start, nine o’clock you see? So I go at nine and I can be back home at ten, which is very good, into [supermarket] and get what I want, I did Saturday morning see? Within an hour that’s the, that’s the best time to go before the people are about shopping because it’s comfortable, you know, and the people that are there they will be stacking up by then, you know, and they’ve only just opened and stacking up so.
There’s less people, there’s less people around?
Yes it’s lovely yes and they’re not, not crowded but, people don’t go into the town before ten much anyway and the buses, coming home it’s dead easy but, four o’clock there’s the queues all down the town hall you know, if you leave it late in the afternoon in particular. Market day is a bad day really, but I go up market and get me vegetables, you know, the, what I can carry.
You go to the Wednesday market?
Wednesday market yes.
Ah, so what time do you go?
Well I go, I go two o’clock time and three, you know, I try to miss four o’clock because at four o’clock onwards the office people are coming out and the business people start going down and, the buses get very busy then.
So you avoid sort of crowds?
Big crowds, yes as much as I can yeah.
Yes it’s so much more comfortable isn’t it? I mean you can’t with, Saturday morning you can’t, you have to walk through the town at peak time, I expect you’ve seen it on a Saturday it’s terrible, when you’ve got the buskers and, and all sorts in, in [street] [laughs] taking up half the pavement and things, bands playing and all sorts.
Do you feel safer to walk when there is less people around?
Yes I do yes.  
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.

Joan who lives alone, has several gadgets to help her around the home and she has learnt to use...

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Age at interview: 73
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 69
Well the change in my life particularly after I had both arms fractured and I became more mobile was really to master my computer. And I use the computer, and I still do for ordering my groceries. And I must say the people who deliver have always been very helpful to bring them into the kitchen, to lift them up for me onto the counter. And I do my banking, the only thing that the computer won’t do is give me cash so I’ve always had to rely on a good neighbour. But yes the computer has been the thing that I had to really learn to use.
My life has changed in that there are several things that I can’t, couldn’t do were it not for a knife with the handle on the top that the occupational therapist found for me. And I have a toilet-seat raiser. My chair is on higher and not long after I used. I unfortunately used to make the mistake of getting in chairs that are too low for me. That’s always a problem wherever I go if I needed to visit someone or a new waiting room you look around to look for a chair that is high enough.
My own lifestyle? I think it’s, I still have a very happy life and my two sons, one son especially, has been most helpful in looking out for things that he thinks would help me and any mention of ice on the weather forecast is enough to get all my friends telephoning me and saying, “Please don’t go out. Please telephone us if you want something.” But certainly groceries can be ordered by telephone even, not just computer but yes it works well.
And what about organising your kitchen for instance? Have you sort of needed to take that into account?
Yes, yes my kitchen I can’t reach top shelves safely. Top shelves wherever they are a problem and I either ignore them. I have a small step stool which has a thing that I can hold if absolute dire emergency. But I don’t use. I’m putting. There are funny things, two dinner plates are the maximum that I can lift to put in the cupboard on the middle shelf. Any more which means there’s obviously somebody in the house who’s been eating with me therefore they have to do that.
The, oh I had to change quite a lot of things. The, my electric kettle was too heavy with water in. I can’t, still can’t do that. So I either use the electric kettle which is a metal one with just enough water which in fact, of course, is more economical just for the amount for me. And I also have a small plastic one if I need to have more water to boil.
I also have a cutting, a slicing board that I was given for Christmas by the other son. They went to look for things to make it easy because a sawing action I found very difficult and this is like a serrated knife that you pull the handle down and that was good. Yes I have a lot of funny little gadgets that I have.
Oh and the best gadget and I’m sure everyone who is disabled has one is the thing that will pick up things or if you drop your walking stick you have your wonderful gadget that picks everything up and it has a magnet on the end to pick up pins or little metal things or at least drag them nearer to one. And there’s one in my car and there’s one in my bedroom. And I think there is my father’s old one in the hall. So I have them all over the place. 

Victoria Iris wants to remain independent but she needs to employ paid help for some household...

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Age at interview: 83
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 64
My household work. Have I mentioned that I have three cleaners, yes' one downstairs, one upstairs and one for the stairs. I have a window cleaner who occasionally, it’s father and daughter, and occasionally I get the daughter to come in and do downstairs as well. I’ve got it in mind the next time she comes to do upstairs because although reaching for the, up to the windows is good, the stretching upwards. I am finding it increasingly difficult. In fact I just can’t cope. And so I will ask her to come and they’ll do it with pleasure.
I must say that I am quite careful. I try not to make any more mess and living on my own I make the minimum. I have tried to keep up-to-date as well. I wouldn’t like to think that I couldn’t do my own housework but the day will come I know.
But nevertheless as long as I can do my own shopping, oh boy which is the same with everything. I’m independent by nature as well. I cope with things and sometimes I have difficulty. I certainly have difficulty, oh yes before you go I’ll ask you something. I certainly have difficulty with undoing screw tops and things like that and I won’t trouble my brother. His wife’s far from well, not nearly as good as me and ten years younger and he’s always had eye trouble. Can’t drive now so he’s walking everywhere. I never trouble him but one day I was desperate. I took a disinfectant, toilet disinfectant. I said I can’t do this and of course he did it in a second but I don’t trouble him. That’s about the only thing I’ve asked him to do.
I find my balance isn’t as good as it was. I mean when I’m waiting by the microwave. The exercise lady said, stand on the one foot and put the other behind and don’t stand too near the cooker in case you fall and try it. So all along the line I am trying to you know. Now I played the piano but I haven’t touched it this year. I had it tuned before Christmas but my dexterity is not as good as it was. I mean obviously I’m not going to get any better, all I’m hoping is I won’t get much worse.
I do go in the garden and although I have a gardener I can prune. Now the yellow bush in the front I did a bit in the week but I can see it wants chopping a lot more. I wanted to make sure the hydrangeas you could see. And but that’s good for me so I get out whenever I can. I do bend a bit but not too much because I’m better if I’m stretching than if I’m bending. I things like turning my bed. Now I have a single bed because it’s easy for me, even the bedclothes are you see but I keep thinking to myself I must ask somebody to come and help me to turn my bed, but it’s things like that. 
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.

Joan who lives alone has found ways to make it easier to shower and dress herself.

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Age at interview: 73
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 69
So I have a shower. It’s [pause] a risky manoeuvre because I have to step over the side of the bath. I do have a step from the lovely occupational therapy people so there is a white plastic step to step over the bath and there I have my shower. To have a real shower is on the top floor of my house and that means two flights of stairs and that’s, doesn’t work quite as well so I stay in the one. Oh and I have a procedure even then. My telephone I take and it stays on the edge of the bath so that in case I fall I have a problem I can grab my phone.
The other thing that is rather amusing is that I, to dry myself is also a problem. So before I start my shower, it’s a funny routine, I put a towel, a large towel, on the bed and that’s the way I can dry my back and a lot of me as well [laugh]. Oh and dressing is
Is a problem. Again I have changed because I can’t manage to do fastenings, fastenings on the left side or right side, on side fastenings or back. I mainly have elasticated tops and sometimes I can manage to do a fastening on the left but I. Looking for clothes is something that I always now have to take note of. And because of vanity I, this, the arm with the scars on it particularly I wear longer sleeves which is rather more flattering any way. They’re all very loose. I don’t think there’s anything that’s tight. I was just going to try but I It’s higher than that I suppose that is the problem, higher than just shoulder that is the problem. This shoulder is a, one shoulder has, perhaps I do it the other way, even putting on a coat can be not as easy as it used to be.
It’s been quite a while so I just accept there’s certain limitations. I don’t even think about them anymore. And other people do who come to visit and haven’t realised. They say, “Oh why didn’t you ask me to do that?” Well because I do it myself. I’m alone and so I do.
Yes and I think I have adjusted to the changes caused by the osteoporosis. And I just get on with living.

Victoria Iris talks about her difficulties when going to the hairdresser and with dressing.

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Age at interview: 83
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 64
It has made my life much more difficult. It has a major affect on anybody’s life. I now have to have. Well my mobility is less and I used to be very energetic and mobile and I, movements are much slower. I need a gardener, a window cleaner and alteration of clothes due to the lack of shape. Visits to the hairdresser are quite hazardous because having a back wash. I am not able to get right over and I can’t cope with a forward one. We’re at the point now where it, so long as my feet are elevated and I’m tipped back I can cope. But my own normal hairdresser here at home has got the kind of seat that if I’m sitting on a bag of cotton wool or lots of towels I can tip my head back. But it’s still quite a difficult job for the girl who is shampooing me.
Ooh now you’ve hit the nail on the head. I have to wear these elasticated pop socks. Now obviously I found going anywhere elegant I will wear tights ontop. I said to my doctor this last week have I still to wear them. I once had a deep vein thrombosis and immediately I was on ditrodol, immediately I was off it. And he said, yes because I’d had a deep vein thrombosis I would always need to wear them. It isn’t that I mind wearing them I said but I have to tell you I do my exercises every morning trying to get these on. I try sitting on the bath. I try sitting on the bed. I try sitting on the stool. I’ve even tried bringing my, cream that I put on my face and do it down here. I said but it really is an exercise. And he said, well that’s good for you, [laugh] which I know. Yes. About 6 weeks ago I couldn’t bend down to fasten. I’m supposed to wear trainers you see to stop, to cushion the effect of jarring. I couldn’t bend down to fasten the trainers, to tie them. Sit on the settee but the last fortnight or three weeks I managed to stand up and bend down and tie them. So I’m going oh, oh improvement. Great satisfaction.

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.


Sarah is starting to do more around the home since her second spinal fracture.

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Age at interview: 61
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 61
There was a slight getting-better stage between the first and the second accident, but that was only very, a short time. And this has really put me back, the second accident in January, I’m afraid. But I’m starting to get, potter around much better now. I can carry shopping but, but I’m really glad to be home because the pain starts between my shoulders again. I just, I do all the shopping then I sometimes have to call my husband to come and rescue me.
Well, shopping, if you go, if you just overdo it slightly. At first I couldn’t carry anything, but now I can carry a couple of bags. But I have to stop a few times on the way home and put the bags down and just stretch upwards to get my spine right.
Yes. I find, I find picking things up off the floor, I have to get my husband to come and rescue me sometimes because I can’t, I just look at something, I just cannot pick that up, and he’ll come and do it.
So you have problems bending, bending down?
I do really, yes. Because as I bend, I suppose I should go from my knees really, then I wouldn’t have the problem. But you know what it’s like, you just think you’d just bend down quickly from the waist and then that’s the pressure on my spine again. So “Oh, oh, oh” and I try to get myself up again by clinging on to something.
Are there any particular precautions that you take now? Are you more careful?
I was scared of going up on the ladder again, after having fallen off one. But I’m afraid I’m getting a bit bolder now and I will go up it again. And I ought not to.
So you don’t like, you’re not climbing ladders any more?
Yes, I am. That’s the trouble. Expect more news from me falling off another ladder [laugh]. Yes, a bit bold. I very gratefully did, when we had a bath, new bathroom put in, it had a, what’s it called? a support on the wall. And people were laughing, saying, “That’s for old people.” But they must have had a vision because I’m so grateful for that now. A grip, you know, so that when I get out of the bath I can lean on it and know I’m not going to fall backwards. It’s, that was a bit of foresight there. It’s very, very helpful. 

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.


Rather than giving up, Emma tries to find alternative ways of doing something she finds difficult...

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Age at interview: 61
Sex: Female
Age at diagnosis: 47
And doing things around the house?
I used to do even gardening myself. I do now, I sit on the floor and do the gardening because I love doing gardening. But gardening I can’t do. I cannot do the Hoover because of my ribs are broken and I get such a pain if I do that. I cannot mow the grass. I cannot do heavy lifting at all, not at all.
I used to carry four pint of milk, now I cannot get it, that four-pint of milk. So anything to do with more than a pound or so I can’t do that.
OK. So lifting a saucepan is a problem?
Lifting, that was a time that lifting of the saucepan was a problem for me. I could not lift the saucepan from one burner to another or from there to the table or anything that I can’t do. I try to do it now so that I make my muscles a bit stronger because of, I do weight lifting now. So I can do, hold it but not as good as I used to do it.
Due to my exercises I can do it better now. So I can say exercise is the best for osteoporosis people. From day one, as soon as I think, if a woman know, knows that they have a low density or a medium density, whatever, I don’t know exactly what it is the, we should start doing exercise.
Lifting of my arm, I cannot lift, I can lift this right arm but this arm I can’t lift.
OK. And bending you knee?
Bending and kneeling, I kneel down on my knee because whenever I do work I adopt myself. If I can’t do bending I just bend down on my knee and I work like that. But then I have to get up very quickly because it’s so, and then I sit on my bum for a while. That’s a, that’s the main part of it, that’s why I can’t do my gardening very well. But I still do it. Slowly and slowly.
Hoovering I don’t do. I haven’t done for the last two or three years now. Here I have got carpets but in my other house I had wooden floors and that helps a lot to keep it clean because I can’t do hoovering at all.
Mobility’s very low. I can’t walk very far.
How do you feel about these changes to your daily life?
Because I notice they’re all the time in everything, I adopt the changes. It doesn't affect a lot to me. If I can’t do certain things today and I don't have anybody to rely on, I try to make way how to do it. So you, you have an alternative way to do it. That's what I do. So I can’t say that it affects a lot. For a few days I will figure out and see how I can do it. If I can’t do it then I have to take a help with my son have to do it. But mostly I just adapt myself. To do it, the ways, how to do the different things.

Robert has learnt that having rest periods during the day enables him to contribute to the...

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Age at interview: 49
Sex: Male
Age at diagnosis: 43
So it’s learning all these different techniques. So that’s what the pain management clinic did. They got me out of the depression but then after I. That was the major problem and then we, we got round that one and I learnt then to cope with life and to prioritise things and to think, well I’m not going to do that. If I don’t want to do it I’m not going to do it and learn to pace yourself, not to go to this burn out and then you know. That’s what I was doing all the time was peaks and troughs all the time. Now I tend to do a little bit, have a sleep or a nap or just a break just to have a sit down. And then, you know, and then it really works, you know. And if I over do it shopping or anything that, you know, I know when to say no and to stop. And that takes understanding from your partner as well and from your family because your family have to accept that they can’t push you do to things. So [wife] will say, do you fancy doing this today and I’ll say, ‘I really don’t feel well enough’ and that’s it. Whereas before we’d, ‘Oh come on, you know, it will do you good.’ And then you’d do it under pressure and then you feel twice as bad afterwards. So I don’t get pressurised anymore. So I, you know, it’s a bit like having the life of Reilly in a way but, you know, obviously life isn’t like that and you know, life in reality we have to, we have to do so much, you know. We have to sort of contribute. And, and I find like I pick myself up and I push myself to do things a lot more. You know, I do probably. I don’t give in as many people like I cook. I do the cooking every evening. That’s my contribution to the housework if you like. I don’t just sit back and, you know, and give into it. I do actually contribute and I do the garden and I do a lot of things that a lot of people in my condition probably wouldn’t do. But, you know, I but I only do. I’ve learnt I can do a little bit and then just relax.

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Last reviewed June 2017.

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