October is Lupus awareness month, and we would like to take a moment to consider how it can affect our seniors.
This inflammatory disease causes the immune system to attack itself, and although most commonly diagnosed in women at child-baring age, it can develop in older women and men as well. This is known as “elderly-onset lupus”.
A primary danger with Lupus is the likelihood of misdiagnosis. Many of the symptoms associated with Lupus mirror other conditions common amongst the elderly – arthritis, muscle aches, dry mouth, etc . Lupus is a difficult condition to medically determine at any age, but elderly-onset lupus may present an even more problematic diagnosis.
For aging people, there is an average delay of three years between the start of identifiable symptoms and the appropriate conclusion by a diagnostician. Once the condition is correctly diagnosed, treatment is supervised with drug dosages significantly less than those required by younger sufferers.
A good routine that assists with the management of Lupus starts at home. Here are some extremely useful tips for caregiver and patient alike.
Excess stress will exasperate Lupus. Always maintain due diligence to avoid stressful situations. Yoga and meditation are invaluable ways to keep stress levels low. But also feel free to consider alternatives like keeping an indoor garden, or enjoying creative crafts like crochet or knitting.
Limit sun exposure
Just like stress, contact with direct sunlight can intensify a patient’s symptoms. Remember to keep away from the midday sun, and stay covered up when outside. Sunblock with an SPF of at least 50 is best, and wearing hats and long sleeve shirts will minimize exposure and risk.
Be aware of nutrition
A well-rounded diet is always important to protect the health of our seniors. It is especially necessary that those with elderly-onset lupus are receiving key vitamins and minerals from their meals. Osteoporosis is a very common accompanying condition many patients will face. This means they need calcium and other bone-strengthening nutrients that can be provided in both food form and supplements.
Make moderate movement-based exercise a part of your routine. This is where caregivers are invaluable as they can plan the day’s activities and scheduling, and ultimately work with the senior to ensure it is kept. Walking and swimming and great ways to keep active and will also encourage endorphins improving mood and reducing stress.
"Lupus" Petri, Michelle, MD, MPH. The Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. November 2002.
Ho CT, Mok CC, Lau CS, Wong RW: Late onset systemic lupus erythematosus in Southern Chinese. Ann. Rheum. Dis. 577), 437-440 (1998).