New Research Highlights Lack of Resources and Support for Older Australians Living with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD) during Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Month

Recent research has shown that older Australians living with Inflammatory Bowel Diseases (IBD), commonly known as Crohn’s and colitis, are experiencing a lack of resources and support, and in some cases, are living with undiagnosed IBD. With this in mind, Crohn’s and colitis Awareness Month, which takes place in May, will focus on the impact of IBD on older Australians.

Although the narrative around IBD often focuses on children and young people suffering from the disease, by 2030, one third of people living with IBD will be aged 60+. While there is no identified cause or cure, there are new treatments available, and diagnosis methods have changed significantly in recent years.

The Royal Australian College of Physicians conducted research in 2022, which revealed that people aged 60+ with IBD are less likely to experience steroid-free remission, be prescribed biologics, or have a specialist IBD nursing contact and/or a multidisciplinary IBD Team. These factors make living with the disease much more disruptive and painful, and that much less manageable. Clinicians should be aware of better and more effective options when it comes to treating older Australians with IBD, older people with IBD should insist on further exploration when it comes to their diagnosis and treatment and hospitals need to ensure IBD nurses are active members of multidisciplinary teams. One of the authors of the research paper, Dr John Nik Ding, is available for an interview to discuss the findings further.  

CCA is proud to support a global survey that will launch on World IBD Day (19 May), which will capture the experiences of older people and identify what additional support they may need.

CCA recently interviewed two older Australians Jan and Tony living with IBD to gain more insight into their experience of the disease and the process of getting a diagnosis.  

Both Jan and Tony were diagnosed later in life following a lifetime of illness. Three years ago, when the pandemic hit, Tony’s circumstances meant that managing his Crohn’s became even more crucial. Working as a professional entertainer meant that he was out of a job, which he says really taught him to deal with stress because if he couldn’t manage his stress, his IBD would continue to get worse.

Jan was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease in her late 50s. She says that finally receiving a formal diagnosis has made a huge difference to her life. “The pain has become better since the diagnosis. Just knowing exactly what’s causing the pain makes it much easier to deal with and I’m now in a position where I can develop more informed and effective strategies for coping. New medication has also made a difference. How helpful it would have been 70 years ago to have received definitive diagnoses of these conditions. My hope is that no one will now need to live so long with undiagnosed IBD and that better diagnostic methods and treatments will continue to be reflected in the lives of those suffering with this disease.”

Leanne Raven, CEO of Crohn’s & Colitis Australia states that “our health system needs to step up with a real focus on personalised care across the lifespan for people living fearlessly with complex chronic conditions. Older people deserve to have the best care available wherever they live, it should be integrated and inclusive of nurses within a multidisciplinary team”.

CCA acknowledges and thanks our generous sponsors, Pfizer, Janssen Australia and Falk Pharma for supporting Crohn’s and colitis Awareness Month 2023.

Media Contact

Julie Weldon

M: 0423 110 802

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