Invisible Illness Awareness Week 29 September - 04 October 2015

by:  Tehila Mörtl


We at Advise & Protect Senior Care Consultants wish to acknowledge the many individuals in senior care with invisible illnesses. It is through important education such as this that we continue to offer seniors help.  In 2002 there were few websites and limited material for individuals living with what authors of the book “Sick and Tired of Feeling Sick and Tired” referred to as “invisible chronic illness” or ICI.  Lisa Copen, who understood all too well what it meant to live with chronic illness, particularly invisible conditions such as migraines and back pain, began Invisible Awareness Week.  Having been online since 1997, it was in 2002 that she realized the need and necessity for an organization which could reach out to others dealing with the frustration of being misjudged.  According to a 2002 census roughly ninety-six percent of individuals who live with an illness are also afflicted with illnesses that are invisible.  Many of these do not use a cane or other assistive device and can appear perfectly healthy to others.

Illness Awareness Week is a time in which to shine a light on the strength and mettle it takes to live with such debilitating illnesses as Lupus, Crohn’s Disease, Cancer, Diabetes, MS, Diabetes, Fibromyalgia, HIV, Arthritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, varying forms of Migraines, pain disorders, mental health issues such as schizophrenia, and other unceasing invisible illnesses.  For many like myself who deal with the incapacitating and painful effects of such afflictions easily understand the daily fight to not only to keep up but being subjected to bitter looks from others when parking in a handicapped space despite the fact that they have a medically and legally acquired permit displayed in the front window of their vehicle.

Statistics on those afflicted with chronic illness include:

·       133 million Americans has a chronic condition.  That is equivalent to approximately 1 in 2 individuals.

·       According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human services, that number is projected to rise to 157 million by the year 2020 and further increase by more than one percent per year by 2030.

·       Sixty percent of individuals dealing with Invisible Illness are between the ages of 18 and 64 and ninety percent of seniors have one chronic disease while seventy-seven percent are dealing with two or more.

·       Within the United States seventy-eight percent of health care dollars go towards individuals with chronic conditions.

So, as one can see, the plight of invisible illness is much more prevalent than most could even begin to imagine.  To assist your elder in enjoying adult day care and assuring success in their senior home care, we offer the following which reviews some of the invisible illnesses:

Fibromyalgia - a musculoskeletal disorder that changes the way the brain processes pain, often resulting in pain receptors working in hyper drive. I addition to severe pain, depression and sleep deprivation some of the symptoms often seen are sensitivity to touch, environmental sensitivity, muscle and joint stiffness, muscle spasms, exhaustion, trouble concentrating, chronic headaches and even bowel difficulty.

Anxiety – can include such as panic disorder, social anxiety disorder, distinctive phobias and genera anxiety disorder.  Persistent, overwhelming fear, chest pains, sleep disturbance, nausea, dizziness, heart palpitations, chest pains, muscle pain and dry mouth are but a few symptoms that take a toll on sufferers.

Crohn's Disease – effects approximately a half-million people with an unending and acute condition that causes inflammation of the GI track, usually the small intestine.  While individuals with Crohn’s can go through periods during which they feel satisfactory, it is more likely that symptoms such as cramping and intermittent pain, diarrhea, fever and suddenly weight loss worsens for extended periods of time.

Depression - can be relentless in persistent feelings of deep sadness and loss of interest and can lead to an array of emotional and physical conditions which include but are certainly not limited to inability to concentrate, diminished level of energy, difficulty sleeping; not to mention, suicidal ideations.

Multiple sclerosis – is an immune system disease which results in the deterioration of the protective covering of nerves.  Although medication and therapy can help slow the advancement of the illness there is no known cure.  Some of the symptoms include pain, loss of or double vision, persistent fatigue, weakened coordination, tremors, muscle spasms and paralysis, numbness, dizziness, speech impairment, difficulty swallowing, complications with thinking, headaches, facial numbness, involuntary eye movement, mood swings, vertigo and the sense of heavy legs.

Bipolar Disorder – involves severe mood swings ranging from depressive lows to manic highs. While medication and treatment can assist in reducing symptoms, individuals often experience episodes of apathy, guilt, discontent, anger, aggression and agitation, lack of interest, racing and unwanted thoughts, delusions, hyperactivity, risky behavior, paranoia, excessive exhaustion, change in weight and self-harm.

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) – includes a band of inherited disorders that mostly affect the skin, joints and blood vessels. Those inflicted with EDS are effected by their own individual signs and symptoms. While there are treatments there is no known cure.

Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) – formerly known as multiple personality disorder is characterized by the presence of two or more distinct personality states caused by intense trauma and abuse. Although treatment can help, there is no known cure.

Autism – is a profound developmental disorder that can impair one’s ability to communicate and relate to others.  Depending on early treatment and severity of the disorder there is a wide spectrum of challenges.  As Autism has become more prevalent, we see more elders continuing to live with this disorder. 

Thank you for visiting Advise & Protect Senior Care Consultants as we have discussed the effects and challenges of living with Invisible Chronic Illness (ICI).  Should you or your elder need assistance in dealing with ICI, please feel welcome and encouraged to contact us at (646) 820-9202.  Care consultants and other professionals with Advise & Protect are here to offer assistance and provide services to elders in numerous areas.