The process of breaking down food so the body can use it is important starting pretty much from the day a person is born. But for seniors, the process of digestion can be affected by some of the things typically associated with aging. Below, you’ll find six of the ways aging affects digestion in the elderly along with some tips for addressing issues related to each one.
Canadian Family Physician, the official journal of the College of Family Physicians of Canada, reports instances of constipation increase with age. Some older adults have difficulty with bowel movements because of medication or surgery, but lifestyle habits can be a factor as well. To avoid or relieve constipation, seniors may benefit from:
• Eating foods higher in fiber and drinking more water
• Getting regular exercise
• Managing stress
• Not fighting the urge to go
Digestive issues can be even more problematic if your loved one is unable to independently 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 in-home care. Trust Home Care Assistance to help your elderly loved one age in place safely and comfortably.
2. Slower Digestive Muscle Movements
The muscles that help with the process of digestion slow down with age, which can contribute to constipation. Lingering food within the gastrointestinal (GI) tract could leave your loved one with stomach discomfort or a feeling of excess fullness. The remedies mentioned above may also keep things moving within the digestive system.
More than half of all seniors in Canada are considered overweight or obese, according to results from a recent Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging. Obesity has been associated with a number of digestion-related issues, including acid reflux and an increased risk of certain GI tract cancers. Even making an effort to shed a small amount of extra weight may be beneficial for seniors with digestive health concerns.
4. Swallowing Difficulties
Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, is common in the elderly, and it can affect digestion in many ways. For some seniors, swallowing issues may be coupled with frequent heartburn or chest pressure. Having problems with swallowing also has the potential to make it difficult to get sufficient nutrients from food. Elderly individuals with this digestive problem sometimes benefit from therapy to learn new swallowing techniques, changes in the consistency of foods, or a special liquid 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 homecare services Edmonton, AB, families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
5. Side Effects Associated with Medication
More than 50 percent of seniors in Canada have at least one chronic condition, according to the Canadian Institute for Health Information. Conditions of this nature are often managed with medication. Certain medications, including some anti-inflammatory drugs, can affect digestion by contributing to stomach irritation, especially when used for long periods. If your loved one is experiencing such issues, he or she may benefit from alternative or non-drug forms of pain management that could involve:
• Physical therapy
• Gentler forms of exercise like yoga
• Diet changes
• Chiropractic care
6. Gas & Bloating
Intestinal bacterial overgrowth is common in seniors, and it can affect digestion by increasing instances of gas and bloating. Also, both of these issues are sometimes exasperated by underlying issues with recurring diarrhea or constipation. If your loved one has concerns about excess gas and bloating, he or she may notice improvements by:
• Exercising in a way that’s comfortable
• Avoiding fatty, fried, or spicy foods
• Having a doctor’s exam to see if there are related issues with lactose intolerance, irritable bowel syndrome, or other undiagnosed conditions
If your loved one is experiencing digestive issues, a home caregiver can help with planning and preparing meals that meet your parent’s specific dietary needs. Every senior has different needs when aging in place. Some simply need occasional assistance with household chores, while others may be managing a serious illness and require more extensive 24-hour care. Edmonton seniors can count on Home Care Assistance to provide the in-home care they need and deserve. If your senior loved one needs help with the challenges of aging, call one of our compassionate Care Managers today at (780) 490-7337.