The digestive system is responsible for breaking down food so the body can use it for the energy it needs to function well. However, the process of aging can affect this vital system, sometimes in ways that seriously impact daily quality of life. On a positive note, there are steps that can be taken to counteract the five ways aging can affect the digestive system mentioned below.
1. Slower Digestive Muscle Contraction
Food moves through the digestive system through a series of involuntary muscle contractions. This is a process that can slow down with age, which increases the risk of having recurring problems with constipation. Seniors may be able to minimize constipation issues related to slower digestive muscle contractions by:
• Drinking more water
• Walking and enjoying other forms of aerobic exercise
• Eating more foods with high fiber content
Digestive issues can be even more problematic if your loved one is unable to prepare nutritious meals or exercise safely 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 senior care. Trust Home Care Assistance to help your elderly loved one age in place safely and comfortably.
2. Difficulty Swallowing
Dysphagia, the medical term for difficulty swallowing, is common in older adults. It’s sometimes related to reduced saliva production, which also occurs with aging. Muscles that control swallowing may also be affected if there’s an underlying condition such as Parkinson’s disease. Possible solutions include:
• Chewing thoroughly and eating more slowly
• Watching posture while eating
• Ensuring dentures fit well
• Eating softer, nutrient-rich foods
• Trying speech and language therapy
3. Medication Side Effects
Adults 65 and older take more prescription medications than any other age group, which is one of the reasons seniors are more susceptible to upper digestive system issues that could cause bloating, indigestion, or upper abdominal pain. Some medications alter the GI tract enough to contribute to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), the most common upper GI disorder in older adults, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Seniors may be able to reduce such issues by exploring options with nonmedicinal treatments to minimize reliance on certain medications. Anti-inflammatory drugs may also cause digestive issues.
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 in-home care Pembroke Pines, FL, families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
4. Chronic Low-Grade Inflammation
According to the NIH, it’s common for seniors to have persistent low-grade inflammation, which increases the risk of developing digestive system conditions related to inflammation, such as diverticular disease. This particular condition results from the swelling of small pouches in the colon wall. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is also a common inflammation-based digestive problem for older adults. Seniors may be able to keep inflammation that could affect the digestive system in check by:
• Eating more fatty fish and other foods that naturally ease inflammation
• Getting regular exercise to reduce fat mass and inflammation
• Managing stress
5. Changes in Bowel Habit
Age-related slowing of the digestive system may also change bowel habits. Normally, people have about 3–4 bowel movements per day. However, if this rate drops to less than 3–4 per week, it’s time to find out why. The tips mentioned above to manage constipation may also enhance bowel habits for seniors. On the other hand, the frequency of bowel movements may increase when older adults have issues with chronic diarrhea. The Gastrointestinal Society estimates 7–14 percent of seniors have this problem. Diarrhea may be manageable with a combination of medication and lifestyle adjustments.
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. Pembroke Pines seniors can count on Home Care Assistance to provide the in-home care they need and deserve. Call us at (954) 374-8273 today to talk to one of our compassionate Care Managers about our high-quality home care services