Autoimmunity in the Elderly

Autoimmunity in the Elderly (1)

Autoimmune disorders cannot be cured but can generally be controlled and managed. There are many ways you can support your immune system to keep it strong and maintain your health long term.


What are autoimmune diseases?

In a healthy body, the immune system guards against germs like bacteria and viruses. When an autoimmune disease is present, the system can no longer differentiate between foreign cells and its own, and releases proteins called autoantibodies that attack healthy cells. Some autoimmune diseases target only one organ, such as Type 1 diabetes, which damages the pancreas. Other diseases, like systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), affect the whole body. For some people, autoimmune diseases can be mild, while others will need to invest a lot of time and care in managing their condition.

Autoimmunity in the Elderly | Autoimmunity

Why does this happen?

Unfortunately, there is quite a lot we still don’t know about why the immune system reacts this way. Some research shows that some people are more likely to have an autoimmune disorder than others. Women are more likely than men to develop this type of disorder and certain ethnic groups are more likely to have autoimmune diseases. As we age, our immune systems gradually deteriorate too. The aging of the immune system is called “immunosenescence”. Our bodies can become slower to respond, which can increase your risk of becoming ill. There are fewer cells present in the immune system to do the healing, so an elderly person’s body may heal more slowly.

Autoimmunity in the Elderly | Autoimmunity

What are some common autoimmune diseases?

There are more than 80 identified autoimmune diseases. Some of the most common ones in seniors include:

  • Psoriasis/Psoriatic Arthritis,
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disease,
  • Lupus, where many parts of the body can be affected, including the skin, muscles, joints, lungs, heart and kidneys,
  • Multiple Sclerosis, where the nervous system is affected, causing muscle weakness and poor coordination, sight problems and, in some cases, cognitive difficulties,
  • Type 1 Diabetes is when the pancreas does not produce enough insulin to manage blood sugar levels, resulting in thirst, hunger and frequent urination,
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis is when bone and cartilage are damaged, causing tender, swollen and stiff joints.
Autoimmunity in the Elderly | Autoimmunity

What are the symptoms to look for to detect autoimmune diseases?

With so many varied autoimmune diseases to account for, the symptoms are also varied. Many may be missed or accounted for by other health issues, especially in the elderly. Staying aware and perceptive is essential and may assist doctors in diagnosing late life autoimmune diseases. Things to look for include hair loss, skin rashes, trouble concentrating, constant fatigue, aching or sore muscles, swelling and redness or other signs of inflammation, low-grade fever and numbness or tingling in the hands and feet. Some of these symptoms may come and go over time, and may seem to have “healed themselves”, but they are simply lying dormant and will reoccur. Speaking to your doctor is the first step towards managing these symptoms, to develop a treatment plan to ensure your long-term health.

Autoimmunity in the Elderly | Autoimmunity

How can I keep my immune system strong?

The good news is, there are many things you can do to keep your immune system healthy. Good habits in your daily life will keep you feeling healthy and help your body to fight off infections and disease when you are ill.

  • Eat a well-balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables,
  • Avoid high-sugar, fatty foods that can cause inflammation and stress within your body,
  • Don’t smoke,
  • Limit your alcohol intake and be sure to drink lots of water,
  • Make sleep a priority. Our body functions better when we are well-rested,
  • Exercise regularly,
  • Keep stress levels low by taking time for activities that revive and refresh you.
Autoimmunity in the Elderly | Autoimmunity

What support is available?

ConnectAbility values and respects your decision to have control of how you live your life, and while you have the option to, to stay living in your home as long as possible. As an Approved Provider we deliver services under the Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) and the Home Care Package Program (HCP) or private paid services if required. Our staff are educated in providing individual support with a focus on aged care, so we can support you to live your life your way. We offer many programs to assist, such as aged home care packages, which include:

Commonwealth Home Support Program

The Commonwealth Home Support Program (CHSP) is an entry-level home support service for seniors who need some assistance with daily tasks to live independently at home and in the community. The aim of the CHSP is to help you live as independently as possible, with a focus on working with you rather than doing for you. It is about working on your strengths, capacity and goals to help you remain living independently and safely at home. We understand this can be a difficult step for people to take and will talk with you about what you would like us to assist with.

Domestic Assistance

This assistance is available to help with basic house cleaning such as mopping, vacuuming, and cleaning of bathrooms and toilets, hanging out washing and changing your bed linen. Staff can also carry out shopping from your supplied list. This assists you to keep your home in the way you choose. We will allocate a trained staff member to visit your home at a time suitable to you.

Social Support Group

ConnectAbility run a Friendship club. Companionship is a great way to relax and socialise. The Friday Friendship Club provides social support, morning tea, lunch, activities, entertainers, guest speakers, bingo and the opportunity to meet new people. The Friendship Club is held at the Jesmond Neighbourhood Centre.

Autoimmunity in the Elderly | Autoimmunity

How can I get assistance living with my auto immune disease?

If you would like to know more about disability services, aged care support, and community programs we offer, please contact us. Contact us by filling out the online form, call us, or send us an email and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

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