With more than 50,000 new cases diagnosed every year in elderly adults over the age of 65, pulmonary fibrosis is a serious disease that many family caregivers first learn about when their aging relative is diagnosed. September is Pulmonary Fibrosis Awareness Month and it is an excellent opportunity for anyone with interest to gather more information, find support groups and access resources about treatments, plus how to care for someone with the disease.
Many family caregivers have questions about pulmonary fibrosis, so here are some of the most frequently asked questions on the subject:
Q: What exactly is pulmonary fibrosis?
A: It is a lung disease that creates scarred, thick tissue within the lungs. The damage makes it hard for the lungs to take in oxygen and get it to the bloodstream. It is very common in elderly adults and it is estimated that 1 in every 200 seniors has some form of the disease.
Q: What are the symptoms of pulmonary fibrosis?
A: Symptoms include chronic coughing, shortness of breath, fatigue, unexplained weight loss, and pain in the joints and muscles. Depending on the person’s overall health, these symptoms could start slowly and progress over years, or come on more rapidly.
Q: What causes pulmonary fibrosis?
A: There are several different causes of pulmonary fibrosis. One main cause is environmental toxins like coal dust, asbestos, silica dust, or hard metals dust. Other causes include as a side effect of radiation treatment, damage from certain medications and because of a medical condition like scleroderma or pneumonia.
Q: Is there a cure for pulmonary fibrosis?
A: There is no cure for the lung disease, but there are some treatments that can slow down the progression of the disease. Treatment plans from qualified doctors consist of medicine, oxygen treatments and breathing therapy. Seniors can also help their health by quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and getting in regular exercise when possible.
Q: What is life like for seniors with pulmonary fibrosis?
A: When elderly adults are living with pulmonary fibrosis, it often means that they don’t have the strength and stamina to complete many of the tasks required to live independently. They are quite reliant on family and friends for help. Many family caregivers hire elder care providers to assist their loved ones with self-care and household care tasks.
Q: How can in-home elder care providers assist seniors with pulmonary fibrosis?
A: Seniors may find it difficult to do much on their own when they have pulmonary fibrosis, and that’s where elder care providers can help. These professional assistants can help with showering, dressing, and grooming needs. They can also take care of household tasks like chores, laundry, meal preparation, and light maintenance.
Q: Can seniors enjoy a good quality of life with pulmonary fibrosis?
A: With a strong support group consisting of family, friends, doctors, elder care providers, and others, elderly adults can enjoy a good quality of life despite a pulmonary fibrosis diagnosis.