5 Tips for Addressing Gastrointestinal Disorders in Seniors

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Gastrointestinal distress can be dangerous for older adults. While supportive measures are often effective in relieving symptoms of gastrointestinal disorders, a physician needs to determine the reason for the symptoms before an effective treatment plan can be implemented. Here are five tips for addressing gastrointestinal disorders in seniors. 

1. Monitor for Other Symptoms

Gastrointestinal disorders such as abdominal cramping, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can be the result of viral and bacterial infections. If your aging loved one’s digestive disorders are accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever, muscle pain, fatigue, sweating, headache, or respiratory symptoms, an infection may be present. If your parent’s physician believes the infection is bacterial in nature, an oral antibiotic may be prescribed. Conversely, if the infection is thought to be caused by a virus, antibiotics might not be recommended. 

Living with serious health conditions can make it challenging for seniors to age in place. However, they can maintain a higher quality of life with the help of professional live-in care. Edmonton seniors can benefit from assistance with meal prep, bathing, transportation to the doctor’s office, medication reminders, and much more.

2. Check Medication Side Effects

Many medications can lead to gastrointestinal disorders in seniors. For example, diuretics and antibiotics cause stomach cramps and diarrhea, while certain prescription pain medications often lead to constipation. If you believe your loved one’s gastrointestinal issues are related to prescription medications, talk to his or her physician. The physician can review the medication side effects and determine if they’re causing the symptoms. If so, the doctor may discontinue the offending drug and prescribe a different one that’s less likely to lead to stomach issues. 

3. Review Dietary Habits

If your loved one has recently changed his or her pattern of eating, his or her gastrointestinal system may not be used to the new meal habits, which may cause constipation, loss of appetite, loose stool, or even fecal impaction. In the event your parent experiences any of these symptoms, ask if any changes were made to his or her diet and monitor the foods being consumed. Your loved one may not be getting enough fiber or eating too much fiber, which can cause diarrhea. If a change in diet is found to be the cause of the gastrointestinal distress, work with a nutritionist, who can recommend digestive-friendly meal plans so your loved one can establish a healthy pattern of eating.

Older adults who need help preparing healthy meals should consider professional in-home care. Home care providers can benefit aging adults in a variety of ways. From cooking nutritious meals to offering timely medication reminders, the dedicated caregivers at Home Care Assistance are available to help your elderly loved one 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

4. Encourage Fluid Intake

Gastrointestinal disorders such as constipation are common in seniors. Factors that may be associated with constipation in elderly people include a sedentary lifestyle, poor nutritional intake, medication side effects, and certain preexisting conditions. In addition, many seniors fail to drink enough water, which is a significant risk factor for diminished peristaltic contractions. When peristalsis is slowed, constipation may develop. Encourage your loved one to drink plenty of water, as this may relieve constipation. 

5. Schedule a Physical Examination

If none of the above interventions are helpful in mitigating the symptoms of gastrointestinal distress, make an appointment with a physician, who can order diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your loved one’s symptoms. While diagnostic testing may uncover the cause, the physician may recommend that your parent see a gastroenterologist.

Older adults can prevent a wide variety of gastrointestinal disorders by making healthy lifestyle choices. If your aging loved one needs help managing everyday tasks or encouragement to adopt healthier lifestyle choices, turn to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of in-home care. Edmonton Home Care Assistance provides professional in-home caregivers around the clock to help seniors live longer, happier, and healthier lives. Reach out to one of our Care Managers today at (780) 490-7337 to schedule a free in-home consultation.


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