Getting older can do more than add wrinkles to the skin or make seniors move a bit more slowly. It can also impact several internal processes seniors barely even notice. Ultimately, older adults’ digestive systems will go through many changes. Learning how aging impacts the digestive system can help you and your elderly loved one better address potential problems.
1. Diverticular Disease May Develop
Tissues become less elastic and firm with age, which can cause small spots in the colon to bulge out from years of pressure. When these spots form tiny pockets, the condition is called diverticulosis. Roughly half of all people over the age of 60 end up with this problem. Milder cases may go unnoticed, but it can lead to symptoms such as bloating, gas, cramps, and stomach pain. It’s also possible for these pockets to become inflamed and infected. In these cases, seniors may need antibiotics and a special diet to recover. Therefore, it’s important to discuss any stomach discomfort your loved one has with the doctor as soon as possible.
Digestive issues can be even more problematic if your loved one is unable to prepare nutritious meals on his or her own. 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. Digestive Movements Slow Down
To digest food, the body is constantly contracting the muscles in the stomach and intestines. As with other bodily processes, these contractions tend to slow down with age, which means food moves more slowly through the system. When food moves more slowly, excessive amounts of water are removed from waste, which can lead to gas, constipation, and other bowel issues.
3. Dehydration Affects Bowel Movements
Seniors often experience dehydration due to things like medications, lower thirst levels, and more frequent urination. This directly impacts the health of the digestive tract because it uses water to perform essential processes efficiently. Without water, stool becomes firmer and bulkier. This can lead to constipation, and when your loved one does go to the bathroom, it may feel quite uncomfortable.
4. Bowel Cancer Risks Increase with Age
As people get older, tiny polyps, or growths, start to develop in the lining of the colon. Just about everyone over the age of 50 may have some polyps. These usually start out as noncancerous growths, but there’s a risk they may mutate into cancer. Fortunately, colon cancer can usually be treated as long as it’s caught early. Getting regular colonoscopy screenings can reduce the risk of developing dangerous cancer.
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 Tucson, AZ, families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
5. GERD Can Cause Regular Stomach Distress
One of the most common gastrointestinal disorders among seniors is gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). Also called heartburn or acid reflux, GERD develops when stomach acid backs up, burns the esophagus, and causes discomfort. Common senior health conditions, such as obesity and high blood pressure, can increase GERD risk, and it also happens due to chronic overeating. In addition to causing discomfort, GERD also increases esophageal cancer risks. Seniors with this condition may want to avoid eating at night, eat smaller meals, and avoid greasy or acidic foods.
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 serious illnesses and require more extensive live-in care. Tucson seniors can count on Home Care Assistance to provide the in-home care they need and deserve. To hire a professionally trained caregiver for your loved one, call us at (520) 276-6555 today.