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4 Typical Gastrointestinal Problems Among the Elderly

Many age-related changes in the gastrointestinal tract are not life threatening, but they can significantly impact your senior loved one’s quality of life. As we all live longer, we are more likely to encounter changes in our gastrointestinal tract, which relates to the stomach, esophagus, colon, and the intestines. If you are a provider of in-home care in The Grand Strand, becoming familiar with common gastrointestinal issues will help you care for your loved one.

1. Dysphagia

Difficulty or discomfort while swallowing is also known as dysphagia. Symptoms vary from mild discomfort to severe pain. The most common diagnostic exam is the barium swallow. While it isn’t always necessary, surgery could be needed to decrease obstruction. To help your loved one overcome dysphagia, provide small and frequent meals of softer foods that are high in nutritional value. Remember to have your loved one sit upright while eating to aid in digestion.

2. Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD)

GERD occurs when acid within the stomach backs up into the esophagus, which causes heartburn and other painful symptoms. Some things that can cause reflux include eating too late at night and consuming unfavorable things such as fried, spicy, or fast foods as well as some medications. Risk of GERD increases with obesity, which is why eating healthily and exercising regularly are important factors in senior health.

3. Diverticula

This occurs when small pouches along the lining of the colon bulge along the intestinal wall. There aren’t usually symptoms, but bloating, gas, cramping, and constipation may occur. Most of the time, diverticula doesn’t cause problems or require treatment, but it may prompt irregularity and scarring. If the condition becomes inflamed, it is known as diverticulitis. Symptoms can include fever, nausea, vomiting, cramping, and abdominal pain. Notable treatments include pain medications, antibiotics, and liquid diet. Avoid laxatives and enemas during treatment.

4. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

IBS predominantly affects the large intestine. It commonly causes bloating, gas, cramping, abdominal pain, diarrhea and constipation. Medicines, certain foods, and stress can be triggers for IBS. Treatment usually includes avoiding caffeine, trigger foods, and stress while increasing fiber intake or sometimes prescribing medication.

Encourage your loved one to remain active, consume more fiber, manage weight, and maintain regular check-ups. Prevention is the best medicine in regards to maintaining a smooth digestive system. For more information regarding gastrointestinal disorders, reach out to Home Care Assistance of The Grand Strand. As a leading provider of Alzheimer’s, stroke, and dementia home care in The Grand Strand, we strive to help seniors manage illness and recover from injury in the comfort of home. Not only do our compassionate caregivers assist our clients with daily activities such as bathing, grooming, and housekeeping, but also they offer emotional support and companionship. Contact an experienced Care Manager today at (843) 353-3105 to learn more about our services and schedule a no-obligation consultation.