Gastrointestinal issues affect the digestive system, which includes the mouth, throat, esophagus, stomach, and the small and large intestine. Any condition that affects swallowing, eating, or the digestion of food may be considered a gastrointestinal disorder. Though such problems can be present at any age, they are more common in older adults. Dietary changes, medication, and surgery (in severe cases) are typical treatment options. The following are the four most common gastrointestinal problems that live-in caregivers in Omaha should watch out for.
This condition causes hard, dry stools and infrequent, difficult bowel movements. Constipation is usually caused by dehydration and medications that older adults may be taking, including some pain relievers and blood pressure medicines. Omaha elder care providers should make sure seniors take oral laxatives and drink plenty of fluids during treatment. In severe cases, an enema may be necessary. If left untreated for more than a week, surgical removal may be required.
Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (also known as GERD) is the most common upper gastrointestinal tract disorder among seniors. It causes acids to leak into the stomach, producing heartburn, chest pain, trouble swallowing, and a dry cough. It can be a side effect of some medications and is linked to consuming fried foods and eating late at night. Antacids can help in minor cases of GERD while proton-pump inhibitors can help reduce inflammation for more long-term cases.
Diverticulosis affects around 50 percent of adults over age 60. It causes small pouches to form in the colon wall, weakening it. The majority of people with diverticulosis will not know they have it until it is found during a routine screening exam, such as a colonoscopy. For most, it will not be painful and causes no symptoms. However, it can sometimes cause stomach cramps. Treatment includes eating a high-fiber diet to help waste move through the colon more quickly and avoid constipation.
The risk for stomach bleeding is increased among seniors, particularly those who take multiple medications. Many older adults take aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), heart medications, blood thinners, and cholesterol-lowering drugs, all of which can increase the risk of stomach bleeding. Symptoms of stomach bleeding can include dark stools, blood after a bowel movement, or vomiting blood. It’s important to contact a physician promptly if these symptoms occur. Often, adjusting medication dosages or types can reduce the risk of bleeding.
Gastrointestinal disorders aren’t the only problems seniors face as they age. To learn more about how you can protect your loved one from these and other illnesses, reach out to Home Care Assistance of Omaha. In addition to helping seniors maintain health and wellbeing in the comfort of home, we provide comprehensive stroke, dementia, and Omaha Alzheimer’s home care. Let us help your loved one the health he or she deserves. Call us today at (402) 763-9140 to schedule a no-obligation consultation.