The digestive system works hard every day to efficiently digest foods and make eating a pleasant experience. As people age, changes occur that can affect how an older digestive system functions. Here’s a closer look at how aging tends to affect the various body parts involved in digestion and what can be done to minimize digestion-related issues for seniors.
For food to move through the digestive system, a series of muscle contractions needs to take place. Over time, this process naturally slows down and reduces the amount of water absorbed from food, which is what can lead to constipation. Seniors can reduce issues with constipation by:
- Drinking more water
- Getting 30 minutes or so of moderate exercise 3–4 days per week
- Eating beans, whole grains, fruit, green leafy veggies, and other high-fiber foods
Constipation can be even more problematic if your loved one is unable to prepare nutritious meals or exercise safely. Seniors can face a variety of challenges as they age, many of which can be mitigated with the help of professional in-home caregivers who provide high-quality homecare services. Dallas families trust Home Care Assistance to help their elderly loved ones age in place safely and comfortably.
Gas & Bloating
A slower digestive system can also make a senior more likely to have digestive issues that result in gas and bloating. Flatulence is sometimes related to inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), and other digestive problems that need to be properly diagnosed and treated. Excess gas can also contribute to an unpleasant feeling of stomach pressure known as bloating. Issues with gas and bloating are often able to be addressed with medication, dietary changes, and reduced consumption of foods that tend to contribute to excess stomach gas, such as cabbage, beans, and lentils. Loose or painful dentures can also affect chewing and swallowing in a way that contributes to excess gas buildup. Properly fitted dentures can minimize this issue.
While gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can affect anyone at any age, it’s more common in older adults. With GERD, stomach acid backs up into the esophagus. Seniors with this problem often experience heartburn and similar symptoms. Medications that reduce stomach acid production may control GERD.
Adults 60 and over are susceptible to a digestive condition known as diverticular disease, or diverticulosis, a condition that results in bulges that develop in weak spots in intestinal walls. Diverticular disease can contribute to gas, cramps, bloating, constipation, and stomach pain. Treatment often involves antibiotics, pain relievers, and changes in diet.
If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of elder care Dallas families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
Weight-Related Digestive Problems
Aging can make it more difficult to keep weight in check because of changes in the way calories are converted into energy (metabolism). Seniors who are overweight are more likely to have issues with GERD, gas, and bloating. Age-related changes in metabolism can often be offset by following a balanced, nutrient-rich diet and finding comfortable and effective ways to stay active.
Medication Side Effects
On average, seniors take anywhere from five to seven medications per day. Some of these medications, including ones taken for high blood pressure and muscle or joint pain, can affect an older digestive system. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and prescription alternatives can contribute to stomach problems. If medications are contributing to digestive issues, seniors may benefit from medication adjustments or efforts to lessen dependence on certain medications with lifestyle adjustments and nonmedicinal therapies.
Every senior has different needs when aging in place. Whether your elderly loved one needs part-time assistance with basic household chores or you need a break from your caregiving duties, the Dallas respite care experts at Home Care Assistance are here to help. All of our respite care services are backed with a 100% satisfaction guarantee, there are no hidden fees in our contracts, and we never ask our clients to sign long-term contracts. Schedule a free in-home consultation by giving us a call today at (214) 363-3400.