Understanding That Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Is More Than Feeling Tired And How It Affects Your Senior Loved One
Does your senior loved one seem tired all the time? It could be the result of not sleeping well, or something more serious. Pegasus home care professionals in Winnetka and elsewhere present the facts you need to understand fatigue.
It’s not unusual to feel tired on occasion. It’s generally attributed to not getting enough sleep. Many of the reasons for lack of sleep are harmless and temporary.
If nothing you’re aware of has led to sleeplessness, the cause may be a medical condition. Common reasons include:
- Illnesses, such as diabetes
- Sleep disorders
Consultation with a physician can pinpoint the cause and treatment.
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Is Beyond Feeling Tired
Your senior loved one may receive a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). CFS is unrelenting fatigue that can’t be explained by an underlying medical condition. Resting doesn’t relieve the fatigue.
CFS is also known as systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID). It’s also called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME) and combined as ME/CFS. Others refer to it as immune dysfunction syndrome (CFIDS).
Regardless of the name by which it’s described, CFS is a serious medical condition. Unfortunately, the general public and some health care providers don’t fully understand CFS. Younger individuals may be called malingers, and CFS is sometimes dismissed as part of old age in mature individuals.
CFS Has Many Symptoms
Although fatigue is the hallmark symptom, CFS affects individuals differently. Your senior loved one’s symptoms may come and go. Or they may never have relief from symptoms that include:
- Difficulty thinking or reasoning
- Dizziness or balance problems
- Inability to concentrate
- Irritability and mood swings
- Long-lasting exhaustion after minimal exertion
- Memory loss
- Muscle and joint pain
- Sensitivity to noises or odors
- Swollen or tender lymph nodes
These and other symptoms vary in intensity and duration among individuals.
Diagnosis of CFS is hard to confirm. There is no definitive test for it. In addition, the many symptoms of CFS are the same as other medical conditions.
For example, CFS can be misdiagnosed as multiple sclerosis or lupus, among others. Individuals may have conditions such as fibromyalgia concurrent with CFS. All of these complicate obtaining an accurate diagnosis.
The Cause of CFS Remains Unknown
Ongoing research has not yet discovered the cause of CFS. Some experts attribute it to a combination of factors. Although there may be a genetic predisposition for CFS, it is not inherited.
A genetic predisposition means that an accumulation of factors can “trigger” CFS. The individual may never develop the illness in the absence of the triggers. Individuals with different genes might not be affected even when all the triggers are present.
Infection is one CFS trigger for some individuals. Research has yet to show a strong link with most viruses. Epstein-Barr is the exception, as a severe infection is often followed by CFS.
Scientists are studying the possibility that viral and bacterial infections can leave a person susceptible to CFS because:
- The immune system is damaged or weakened
- The immune reaction to an infection activates a dormant virus or bacterium
- CFS is a response to physiological changes caused by the infection
It will take further research to determine if the connection between infection and later CFS is more than coincidental.
Researchers have confirmed that some individuals with CFS have overactive immune systems. Immune cells also show some abnormalities. So far, they have not determined whether CFS caused the irregularities or the irregularities led to CFS.
Individuals with CFS often aren’t diagnosed with the illness. Sometimes, it’s due to the misdiagnosis as noted above. Many individuals simply don’t consult a doctor for their symptoms.
Anyone Can Get CFS At Any Age
More women than men are diagnosed with CFS, but that may be due to the fact that fewer men seek medical attention. Adults between the ages of 40 and 60 are most the susceptible age group. However, CFS can strike at any age.
The symptoms of CFS are not visible to family and friends. Overlooking the seriousness of the person’s condition is easy. Ignored, CFS can lead to:
- Restricted activities
CFS has an adverse effect on quality of life and can be disabling in severe cases.
There is no treatment for CFS. All that can be done is to relieve the symptoms. For example, if your senior loved one is depressed, an antidepressant can help them cope.
A physical therapist can design gentle exercises that relieve pain and reduce the fatigue from exertion. Some symptoms can be alleviated with changes in diet. Talk to a physician about changing the kind or dosage of medications.
Learning new ways to overcome restrictions can improve your loved one’s outlook. Emotional support, whether from a counselor or group, can help you and your senior. Because everyone is different, you may have to experiment to learn what helps.
Pegasus is a licensed Home Care Organization and a Joint Commission Accredited Home Health Care organization. Our home care team works one-on-one with individuals in the comfort of their home. We are in Winnetka and our other locations to provide the level of care or services your loved one needs.