When Marisol’s elderly mother started complaining of gastrointestinal distress and itchy skin, they just credited it to some kind of stomach bug. However, when the symptoms started getting worse, they scheduled a doctor’s visit. Marisol was surprised when, after a few visits, the doctor diagnosed her mother with celiac disease. The medical team explained that seniors can develop the disease in their later years and that it often goes undiagnosed. Marisol and her mother were able to get help from a dietician on a gluten-free diet and the symptoms eventually diminished.
The risk of developing celiac disease increases with age and more elderly adults than ever are being diagnosed. Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder, means that when someone eats gluten, the body responds by attacking the small intestine. Over time, the small intestine no longer absorbs nutrients properly, leading to additional health issues.
There isn’t a cure for celiac disease but the symptoms and the health problems can be managed by a gluten-free diet. Gluten, which is found in rye, wheat, and barley, is a protein that triggers the immune system’s reaction. Seniors that depend on family caregivers need to help them maintain a gluten-free diet so that they can stay happy and healthy.
Where is Gluten Found?
The first thing that family caregivers and elderly relatives need to do is to get educated on what gluten actually is and where it is found. Besides rye, wheat and barley, gluten is often included in processed foods that wouldn’t usually be noticed. For example, wheat and barley are often found in soup, sauces, salad dressing, cereal, and more. Family caregivers and elder care aides will have to start reading food package labels in order to ensure the products they are buying are indeed gluten-free. The good news is that there are more gluten-free foods on the market than ever, making it easier to find bread, pasta, and more that won’t cause problems for those with celiac disease.
Once diagnosed with celiac disease, elderly people may need emotional support because a gluten-free diet means eliminating some of their favorite foods. Many seniors can’t imagine giving up staples like bread, pasta, beer, and pastries. Family members can help make the transition to a gluten-free diet by researching alternative recipes using ingredients like rice flour and preparing delicious meals for them without gluten. As they struggle to adapt to the new diet, seniors will need plenty of encouragement. Family caregivers and elder care aides should be sensitive about the emotional impact the drastic diet change can have and should avoid situations where the forbidden foods are present, if possible.
Some of the obstacles that elderly adults face when switching to a gluten-free diet include affordability. Gluten-free options at the grocery store can be more expensive than traditional choices. For those on a fixed income, it can make a big difference. Poor mobility, diminished eyesight, and even mental illness can be obstacles for aging men and women in trying to stay gluten-free on a regular basis.
Family caregivers and elder care assistants can help an elderly adult’s emotional state by staying positive and encouraging them to make a change to a gluten-free diet. By focusing on the positive and making all the foods they can eat readily available, seniors can achieve a better quality of life and feel much better than before. Once they adapt to the gluten-free diet and realize the positive impact, they’ll embrace the new normal in no time.
If you or an aging loved one are considering elder care in Spokane Valley, WA, please contact the friendly staff at Love at Home Senior Care, today. Call (509) 204-4088
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