Unique Challenges: Aging & Hepatitis C
While a person can be diagnosed with hepatitis C at any age, many hep C patients are part of the country's aging population. In fact, Baby Boomers (or adults born between 1945 and 1965) are 5 times more likely to be diagnosed with hep C compared to younger populations. In addition to a higher risk, older patients face unique challenges when dealing with hep C, including long-term complications, liver damage, comorbid health conditions, and compromised immune systems.
To better support our aging community members, we turned to our HepatitisC.net advocates, asking "What are some of the unique challenges faced by older people with hep C?". Check-out their responses below, or click here to ask us a question!
"Older patients are more likely to have had hepatitis C for a long time without knowing it, experiencing more liver damage and complications. Many are facing hepatitis C treatment and its complications alone. Older patients I’ve talked to deal more with fear of stigma and rejection from family and friends and don’t disclose that they have hepatitis C."
"Hep C can be made more severe in older patients because of the aging process, length of time living with hep C, and level of liver and other damage caused by the virus, and the effects of older treatments. As we age, our body is less able to heal and fight illness, including hep C. There are ways to slow the process, like good diet, exercise, and other lifestyle habits, but of course, there is no way to stop us from aging."
"Not long ago, an older woman now in her late 60’s contacted me about being diagnosed with hep C by her primary doctor. She proceeded to tell me the discrimination this supposedly professional doctor gave, even saying, “Everyone in your era did too much partying and too many drugs”. She tried to explain she was not that kind of lady and never ever had she participated in activities such as those. But the doctor ignored and proceeded to shun her; He made made her feel so hurt. I do believe that even in the medical field, if the doctor is not up to date on hep C and fully understands the stigma, they too can be guilty of stigmatizing the older generations."
"My mom had to watch who she told, because the difference in judgment between someone looking at me versus her was huge. For older people with hep C, it's an automatic assumption of where and how they got it. My mom also had issues with some doctors not believing certain symptoms, probably because she was getting older, going through menopause, and a woman; Apparently a handful of docs just seemed to want to use one of those three reasons and send her out the door."
"Older people often have immune systems that are not as strong as younger folks. As we age, we often have other medical issues that compound the emotional and physical stress of having hepatitis C. Older patients often have more severe liver disease due to the long standing infection and weakening of the immune system. As an older patient, myself, who was not cured until I was 68 years old, fatigue and lack of stamina were my chief complaints."
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