June 13, 2019
Sickle cell anemia is a disease that runs in family.
It causes red blood cells to form incorrectly. Instead of being round like healthy cells, they are shaped like crescent moons. They are also inflexible and sticky, which means they don’t move through blood vessels easily. The condition can cause painful episodes, fatigue, swelling in the hands and feet, and frequent infections. Being a caregiver to someone with sickle cell anemia can be challenging. Knowing some caregiver tips, like the ones below, may help make it a little easier.
Know the Treatments Being Used
There is no cure for sickle cell anemia, so the aim of treatment is to prevent a sickle cell crisis and manage the symptoms. Caregivers need to understand the medications and treatments the doctor has prescribed. That way, they can make sure the older adult is following the recommended treatment and watch for signs that it may need changes.
Encourage a Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy diet that includes a variety of fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains can improve the senior’s general health. There’s no special diet for sickle cell anemia. Eating an overall balanced diet is the best way to go.
Dehydration increases the chances of the older adult having a sickle cell crisis. Make sure they drink plenty of liquids throughout the day. Experts recommend 8 glasses per day, but more on days when it is hot or when the older adult is exercising. It can help to keep a refillable water bottle near them all day. Caregivers may need to remind them to take a sip now and then.
Identify Pain Triggers
Some things can trigger sudden pain in people with sickle cell. Pay attention to what the older adult was doing before the pain occurred. It can help to keep a log of symptoms, activities, and foods they eat to identify triggers.
Avoid Extreme Temperatures
When temperatures are very hot or very cold, it can bring on a sickle cell crisis. When the weather is at either extreme, it may be best to keep your loved one indoors. If they must leave the house, it can be helpful to warm up or cool down the car before they get in. Also, avoid public places that aren’t adequately heated or cooled.
Because people with sickle cell can get sick easier than others, it’s important to take steps toward preventing the spread of germs. Caregivers should wash their hands frequently and encourage the senior to do the same. Also, make sure you follow food safety measures to prevent foodborne illnesses.