Most people have not heard of the chronic illness known as scleroderma, but there are plenty of people who want to change that. June is Scleroderma Awareness Month and it’s an excellent time to learn more about this rare but serious disease. Family caregivers and elder care providers always need to be on the lookout for symptoms that their aging relative has so they can determine whether they need to get to the doctor for a diagnosis.
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions that seniors, family caregivers, elder care providers and others have about scleroderma during Scleroderma Awareness Month:
Q: What is scleroderma and what are the symptoms?
A: Scleroderma is an autoimmune that causes the skin and connective tissues to tighten and harden. Scientists are not sure what causes it, but it usually appears as hard shiny patches on the skin, inflamed joints, numbness in the fingers and toes, acid reflux and organ dysfunction. Scleroderma is not contagious, so family caregivers and home care providers cannot catch it from the elderly person.
Q: Who is at risk for scleroderma?
A: Approximately 300,000 people are living with scleroderma in the United States and the disease is most common in women of middle age. However, late-onset scleroderma affects seniors, but the symptoms can be similar to many chronic conditions associated with old age and may be missed. Family members of those with the condition may be at a higher risk of developing it as well.
Q: What does scleroderma do to the body?
A: The connective tissues within the body as well as the skin gradually thicken and grow abnormally. Joints can become inflamed and cause great pain. Scar tissue develops on the organs, which causes them stress and they don’t function properly. Since seniors may already be suffering from other chronic conditions, scleroderma may worsen other symptoms.
Q: How is scleroderma treated in elderly adults?
A: There is no cure for scleroderma, but doctors can put together a treatment plan that can help seniors manage the pain from the inflammation and heartburn associated with the condition. Physical therapy can also help seniors in maintaining flexibility. In extreme cases, doctors may recommend surgery to remove the scar tissue around some organs to boost their functionality. However, because scleroderma manifests so differently in everyone, treatment plans can vary greatly.
Q: How can family caregiver help elderly relatives with scleroderma?
A: This chronic illness is extremely debilitating in its most severe form and can affect how an elderly adult may function in day-to-day life. They will likely find it more difficult to do basic duties such as bathe, dress, groom, prepare meals, clean the house and care for a pet. Hiring an elder care provider can alleviate some of the stress their inability may cause and give them a clean, safe and comfortable environment. Using elder care providers may allow the senior to continue on in their home for many years.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering Home Care Services in Dana Point, CA, please contact the caring staff at Canaan Home Care today!