Community Blog

September is National Sickle Cell Disease Month: What is Sickle Cell Disease?

By Mike Jackson

According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are about 100,000 people in the United States living with sickle cell disease (SCD), a life-long condition. The most common form of SCD is sickle cell anemia, but there are several other forms of the disease. If you are a family caregiver to an older adult living with SCD, learning more about the condition may help you to ensure they receive the care they need.

SCD Causes Abnormal Red Blood Cells

SCD is a hereditary condition that causes abnormally shaped hemoglobin, or red blood cells. Healthy red blood cells are shaped like discs and are flexible so that they can carry oxygen through the blood vessels. However, when a person has SCD, their red blood cells are shaped like a sickle or crescent and they are not flexible. These inflexible cells get stuck in blood vessels and decrease blood flow, which means that tissues are deprived of oxygen.

SCD causes bouts of pain that come on suddenly and are quite severe. Adults may even experience chronic pain. As time goes on, SCD can also harm organs, including the brain, eyes, spleen, lungs, and kidneys. In addition, because sickle cells don’t live as long as healthy blood cells, the person may have a low red blood cell count. Having a low red blood cell count causes the person to feel as though they have no energy.

Helping a Senior Live with SCD

Living with SCD can be very trying and painful. You can help your aging family member to cope with the condition in several ways. One thing that may help is to hire a home care provider to visit the older adult’s home and assist them with daily tasks. Because SCD can cause a lack of energy, having a home care provider to do things like prepare meals and do light house cleaning can help the senior to conserve their energy for other things. Other things that home care providers can do are:

  • Keep the Senior Hydrated: Being dehydrated can bring on a sickle cell crisis in which the person experiences severe pain. Home care providers can assist by monitoring the amount of water consumed and by offering liquids often.
  • Provide a Healthy Diet and Supplements: The doctor may recommend that the senior take folic acid supplements. Folic acid is essential for the creation of new blood cells. Also, a diet rich in colorful vegetables, fruits, and whole grains will help the body to stay healthy. Home care providers can remind seniors to take their supplements and prepare healthy meals.
  • Encourage Exercise: Older adults with SCD should try to exercise on a regular basis, but it’s important that they do not overdo it. Home care providers can encourage the senior to exercise, but only to a level that the person is comfortable with.

By learning more about SCD, you can help your older adult family member to stay as healthy as possible and better their quality of life. If you have questions about how you can help your family member to cope with the disease, talk to their doctor. If your senior loved one needs assistance with the tasks of daily living due to a sickle cell disease diagnosis, a home care provider can offer companionship and help with many of these tasks. 


Sources
https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sca
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sickle-cell-anemia/home/ovc-20303267
https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/sicklecell/data.html
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sickle-cell-anemia/symptoms-causes/dxc-20303269
http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/sickle-cell-anemia/manage/ptc-20303661

IF YOU OR AN AGING SENIOR ARE CONSIDERING IN-HOMECARE IN BOISE, ID, PLEASE CONTACT THE CARING STAFF AT HOME HELPERS HOME CARE OF BOISE. CALL US: (208) 322-2668.

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