Lily Tomlin health: ‘My hands are just ruined’ – star on her battle with osteoarthritis

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin play game with Jimmy Fallon

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The record-breaking Netflix show, Grace and Frankie will air the final 12 episodes on April 29. Despite the show focusing on older 70-something year-old characters, in the past Tomlin has said that she doesn’t feel the same age as her character Frankie. But in a throwback interview alongside co-star Fonda, where the pair discuss their ailments, aches and pains as they both get older, Tomlin’s words beg to differ. During the 2018 interview, Tomlin discussed her battle with osteoarthritis – a condition type of arthritis causes joints to become painful and stiff.

Whilst Fonda discussed her multiple replacement surgeries that have included both of her knees and hips, Tomlin added: “I have osteoarthritis and these joints poke out.

“My hands are just ruined. I used to have lovely, graceful hands and now they’re kind of like a kielbasa.”

“They work, though,” Fonda reminds her.

“They work — exactly, exactly,” Tomlin nods in agreement.

“I know the worst is yet to come, in terms of deterioration,” Tomlin continued to add, when the conversation turned to the prospect of death.

“I’ve come to accept that… I’ve been conscious of that for my whole life in a way.”

For the pair, appearing in Grace and Frankie addresses important issues that affect the elderly, and are not often portrayed on television.

“It’s particularly important as you get older,” Fonda says.

“One of the dangers of the elderly is loneliness… it can be very harmful to the mind and body. Even though there’s a lot of stumbles and ripples, literally and figuratively, we’re friends and you don’t see that very often.

“We both recognise what we’re doing is important: showing, first of all, that old age doesn’t have to be downhill, and that when you have somebody that has your back, it can make all the difference.”

The World Health Organisation (WHO) explains that getting older can come with an increased risk of various health conditions. In fact, common conditions in older age include:

  • Hearing loss
  • Cataracts and refractive errors
  • Back and neck pain
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Dementia.

For some individuals, many of the above health conditions can happen at the same time. Older age is also synonymous with the development of various “complex health states”, known as geriatric syndromes.

These prevalent health issues, which are more common in older adults include: falls, cognitive impairment and delirium, depression, and polypharmacy. The presence of these conditions may influence overall ability to tolerate therapy as well as quality of life and potentially survival.

As already mentioned, arthritis is a condition that causes inflammation and stiffness around the joints. There are several different types, but osteoarthritis is the most common.

In addition to pain, individuals may also experience swelling, tenderness, grating or crackling sounds when moving the affected joints. These symptoms may “come and go”, and often affect small joints in the hands or knees and hips.

The condition develops as, over time, joints are exposed to a constant low level of damage. In most cases, your body repairs the damage itself and you do not experience any symptoms.

However, for individuals with osteoarthritis, the protective cartilage on the ends of your bones breaks down. This causes bony growths to develop, and the area can become red and swollen.

Although there is currently no cure for arthritis, there are a number of treatments available that aim to reduce symptoms. Mild symptoms can sometimes be managed with simple measures including:

  • Regular exercise
  • Losing weight if you’re overweight
  • Wearing suitable footwear
  • Using special devices to reduce the strain on your joints during your everyday activities.

However, for those with more complex and severe osteoarthritis, additional treatments such as painkillers or prescribed exercises from a physiotherapist might be needed.

In a small number of cases, where these damage to the joints is proving tricky to treat, surgery may be done to repair, strengthen or replace a damaged joint.

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