- Make taking meds easy. One of the most common reasons osteoporosis medications don’t work is because they aren’t taken correctly, usually because of missed doses or unpleasant side effects like a stomach upset. If your partner is forgetting to take her meds, familiarize yourself with her medication schedule—whether it’s a daily pill, a monthly patch or twice-yearly injections—and set out her medication at the appropriate time in a place where she can see it and remember it. If she’s due to see her healthcare provider, leave a note on the bathroom mirror to remind her to make the appointment; you can also set her cell phone to remind her. And if unpleasant side effects are a problem, encourage her to discuss the symptoms with her doctor—there are many osteoporosis medications available and the solution may be as simple as switching to a different treatment.
Tip: If calcium supplements are upsetting her stomach, she should ask her doctor about trying a different preparation that may be absorbed more easily. If her supplement contains calcium carbonate, she should take it with food to maximize absorption and minimize stomach problems.
- Become a quit-smoking “team.” Two more things to add to the long list of reasons you and your loved ones shouldn’t smoke: It increases the risk for osteoporosis and could increase fracture risk by 20% or more. Your partner probably already knows this, so constant reminders won’t convince her to give up the habit. Even if she’s ready to quit, don’t expect her to do it “cold turkey”—while that method works for some, it’s not the best option for everyone. Instead, present her with the multiple tools available to smokers to help them quit (patches, medication, gums, support groups, hypnosis and smokeless cigarettes, just to name a few), then agree to “quit together” using whatever method she thinks will work. And if you don’t smoke, you can quit another “bad” habit (like biting your nails or eating junk food) while she cuts back on smoking—that way it becomes a team effort instead of an antagonistic one.
- Get moving as a group. Resistance or weight-bearing exercises are essential for good bone health, and it will be difficult for your loved one to plunk down on the couch if the rest of the family is going out for a hike or bike ride. You can also sign up for a family plan at the gym or YMCA, or join a yoga class together, and become workout buddies: Studies show people are more inclined to exercise if someone else is depending on them to show up. Just be sure your partner consults with her doctor before starting any new exercise plan.
- Make healthy food choices second nature. It’s essential for everyone—not just folks with osteoporosis—to protect their bone health by getting enough vitamin D and calcium each day, and experts agree it’s best to get as much of those nutrients as possible through food. Since it’s important for both of you to eat right, convincing your partner to do so can be as easy as setting a good example.
If you primarily do the food shopping, keep junk food out of your cart and stock up instead on low-fat dairy, fresh produce, whole grains and lean protein. And if your loved one does the food shopping, or you share the task, agree together to change the family’s eating habits. For example, try saying: “I really haven’t been eating right—let’s buy some healthier snacks, like low-fat yogurt or string cheese.”