While adults of any age can suffer from problematic digestive issues, elderly adults are at a higher risk of developing chronic problems that can impact their quality of life. The digestive system is susceptible to aging, therefore seniors are more likely to face challenges like constipation, indigestion and discomfort. Family caregivers can become more familiar with the digestive health of elderly adults so they will be in a better position to help out.
Common Digestive Issues in Seniors
While age doesn’t automatically mean that elderly adults will have digestive problems, the odds are certainly greater. This is because the body slows down and isn’t as efficient as it once was. Age brings numerous changes to the body, and the digestive tract is certainly included.
Here are a few digestion issues that are fairly common in elderly adults and what family caregivers and home care aides can do to either prevent the conditions or alleviate the symptoms.
Gastroesophageal reflux disease can result in heartburn and irritation in the esophagus. When stomach acid is forced upward, it can cause a lot of painful problems. The best ways to avoid GERD is to drink plenty of water, avoid fatty and fried food, and stay away from chocolate, caffeine, and coffee.
Constipation is when a person has a difficult time emptying the bowels due to hard and dry feces. In seniors, the muscle contractions that move food through the digestive tract slow down. This means that food stays longer in the intestines, where it can compact and dry out. Constipation can also be caused by a sluggish metabolism and as a side effect of some medications. Seniors can minimize constipation by staying active and drinking lots of water.
More than half of seniors develop polyps on the colon, known as diverticulosis. They can become inflamed, causing fever, tenderness in the abdominal area and sometimes bleeding. Doctors will advise that seniors change their diet and take antibiotics. In some cases, surgery might be necessary.
Due to age, the stomach is increasingly unable to resist the damage that digestive acids can do to the lining. This can result in the development of ulcers. The elderly adult may feel discomfort, heartburn and perhaps some bleeding. A change in diet and medication can alleviate many of the symptoms of peptic ulcers.
For a number of reasons, many aging adults find that they are more sensitive to certain food. Even if they have enjoyed the food all their lives, they discover they cannot eat it without gastrointestinal distress. Common trigger food includes coffee, chocolate, spicy food, alcohol and fried food. A shift toward a healthier diet often takes care of symptoms like gassiness, diarrhea, constipation and abdominal pain.
Family caregivers need to make sure that anyone involved in the home care of their elderly relative are aware of the person’s digestive issues so they can avoid the triggers and practice healthy habits.
If you or an aging loved-one are considering a Caregiver in Tustin, CA, please contact the caring staff at Canaan Home Care today!