GETTING THE DIAGNOSIS – CELIAC SENIORS
For years, celiac disease was considered a childhood disease. Now we know adults also have celiac disease, often suffering for years before being diagnosed. Diagnosis may be difficult because symptoms vary greatly from one person to another. If the doctor suspects celiac disease, a blood test should be ordered. If the results are positive, diagnosis should be confirmed using a small bowel biopsy. Older persons may require more time for the intestine to completely heal.
Not all medications are gluten free. Ask your pharmacist to refer to his/her CPS manual to determine whether your prescription drugs are gluten free. Before diagnosis, medications may not be properly absorbed. As you heal, medications may require adjustment by your doctor. Your doctor may also prescribe vitamin and mineral supplements to correct deficiencies.
Osteoporosis is a concern for all older persons, but especially in adults that may have experienced years of undiagnosed celiac disease. Make sure to ask your doctor to have your bone density checked. Exercise, along with proper nutrition and medication, can help to minimize the effects of osteoporosis. In addition, regular exercise will help you look and feel great.
Tips For Family & Caregivers
Help is needed, especially right after diagnosis, to learn the complexities of the gluten-free diet. Support for newly diagnosed celiac patients is available from local chapters of the Canadian Celiac Association.
Make sure all doctors know the diagnosis of celiac disease, and the importance of following a gluten-free diet.
Help may be needed to read the fine print on food labels, and to question the server in restaurants. Check all foods for gluten content, especially “hidden” gluten, such as modified starch, and hydrolyzed plant protein.
It is imperative that family and caregivers recognize the impact a change in diet can have on an older person, from both a nutritional and social perspective. Help by making sure gluten-free substitutes are on hand, eg. gluten- free communion wafers for church, and cookies or crackers for coffee and tea.
Encourage family members to be tested for celiac disease.
Related conditions include: Type 1 diabetes, thyroid disease, osteoporosis, and others. Although the incidence of additional conditions is uncommon, advise your doctor of any medical concerns you may have.