Support for Seniors Living with Hepatitis C
July 28th is World Hepatitis Day, a great opportunity to raise awareness about seniors and hepatitis, as well as where to find professional support and assistance for your loved one. Here’s some insight and advice from our assisted living team in Sussex County, New Jersey.
Seniors and Hepatitis C
Did you know that people born between 1945 and 1965 have a much higher chance of contracting hepatitis C? That’s because this disease wasn’t well understood during that time, and people didn’t know how it was transmitted or how to test for it properly in the blood. In fact, many seniors are unaware they have this disease, as it can remain dormant in the body for many years.
Unfortunately, this makes seniors especially vulnerable to the condition, and many people die from hepatitis before getting the life-saving treatment they need.
What is Hepatitis C and What are the Symptoms?
Hepatitis is a disease that attacks the liver causing inflammation that can lead to serious – and even fatal – damage to the organ. It is caused by a virus that lives in the blood of infected people and spreads when contaminated blood enters a person’s bloodstream. There are five types of hepatitis, each caused by a different virus, but it is Hepatitis C that is most common in seniors.
As a result of poor testing methods and a lack of awareness around this virus, people could contract the disease in a number of ways. Those who are especially at risk are people who:
- Have HIV
- Received tattoos or piercings from unclean instruments
- Received blood transfusions, clotting factor or organ transplants before the early 1990s
- Received hemodialysis for a long period of time
- Were born to a mother with the disease
- Used illegal, injected drugs
In order to get treatment as early as possible, it is important to watch for the following symptoms:
- Abdominal pain or swelling
- Swelling in the legs
- Loss of appetite
- Non-specific itching of the skin
- Jaundice (yellowing) of the eyes and skin
- Dark yellow urine and pale stools
- Low fever
- Nausea and vomiting
- Easy bruising and bleeding
- Confusion and slurred speech
- Muscle aches
- Breast tissue development in men
If one or more of these symptoms appear, it is important to talk to your loved one’s physician about Hepatitis C, especially if they are considered high risk for the virus. The damage the disease can cause to the liver can be fatal, and the virus can cause cirrhosis (scarring) of the liver, liver cancer and liver failure.
Screening and Hepatitis C Treatments for Seniors
The Good news is that there are Hepatitis C treatments for seniors, including anti-viral medications that can push the disease into remission, and you can even be vaccinated against other strains of the virus (A and B). If you are concerned that your senior loved one is high-risk for Hepatitis C, you can also request a screening test from their physician, which consists of a simple blood test to check liver enzyme levels.
As with all health conditions, it is better to know your status as early as possible so that the treatment has the best possible chance for success. Even seniors who feel healthy should get screened.
Senior Communities Help Residents with All Kinds Of Health Screenings
Screening for hepatitis C is critically important for seniors, yet it can be difficult to get mom in front of a doctor for this kind of screening (or if she’s like my mother, any kind of screening!) One of the advantages of living in a senior community like Bristol Glen is that common testing and monitoring is absolutely a part of what we do every day. Should a resident need or want such testing, it can often happen right inside our community by trained nurses or aides. Indeed, during the COVID-19 pandemic, we are taking additional precautions to monitor and protect the health and wellbeing of our residents, and tests like this are still going forward.
For more information on who we are and how we can support the health and well-being of our residents call the team at Bristol Glen today.