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Helping the Elderly Manage Irritable Bowel Syndrome

By Melissa Hill, 9:00 am on

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a common condition, especially in women and Caucasians. Some doctors estimate 10 percent of the elderly population experience it. While it is usually not a constant problem, it tends to occur during times of stress. Mucus in the stool, bloating, gas, abdominal pain, and frequent changes in stool consistency are all common symptoms.

Alzheimer’s disease can intensify IBS symptoms, and seniors living with Alzheimer’s may find it challenging to take preventive measures. Consider hiring a professional caregiver for your loved one. If your elderly loved one is living with Alzheimer’s and needs help managing the symptoms, turn to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of Alzheimer’s care. Oklahoma seniors can rely on our revolutionary Cognitive Therapeutics Method (CTM), an activities-based program that helps slow cognitive decline and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. CTM also encourages seniors to engage with others in an enjoyable way and helps them build new routines to look forward to.

Here are some things you and your senior loved one can do to manage IBS.

Eat Healthier

As seniors age, they realize they can’t eat like they did when they were younger. This is especially true if they have IBS. Some foods like raw vegetables, dairy products, spicy foods, fried foods, and high-fat foods can upset the digestive system when managing this condition. Artificial sweeteners and carbonated beverages can also cause problems. A food diary can help your senior loved one pinpoint exactly what causes a flare-up. Eating frequent smaller meals throughout the day can also ease the symptoms of IBS. 

Some seniors need motivation to eat healthier, and a professional caregiver can provide the encouragement they need. Oklahoma elder care experts are available to provide high-quality care to seniors on an as-needed basis. From assistance with mobility and exercise to providing transportation to the doctor’s office and social events, there are a variety of ways professional caregivers can help your aging loved one continue to live independently.

Relax

Stress can be a major trigger for IBS symptoms, so finding ways to manage stress and to relax should be one of your loved one’s top goals. If your loved one is feeling overwhelmed because he or she can’t accomplish daily tasks independently, he or she can ask a trusted friend or relative for help. If the source of the stress is other than having too much on the plate, your loved one should consider talking to a counselor about ways to combat the stress. He or she can also try relaxing practices like yoga and meditation. 

Get Some Exercise

If your loved one is able to exercise, make sure he or she gets 30 minutes a day. Always check with the doctor before your loved one begins a new routine. Even a 30-minute walk through the neighborhood or a local park can help. Swimming is also a good option for seniors with joint problems or limited mobility. Exercise keeps the digestive system working properly and also alleviates stress levels and boosts overall physical and mental health. 

Give Up Smoking and Caffeine

Smoking can cause a number of health problems, but some doctors believe secondhand smoke can also irritate the digestive system. Encourage your loved one to stop smoking and avoid places where he or she might be exposed to secondhand smoke. Also, watch your loved one’s caffeine intake. Switch out sodas for water, and make sure your loved one is drinking enough water each day. 

Consult a Doctor

In some cases, lifestyle changes aren’t enough to keep certain conditions at bay. The doctor may suggest a supplement or even prescribe medication to help ease your loved one’s IBS symptoms. Laxatives, fiber supplements, and probiotics can all be useful. Medication to prevent cramps and diarrhea may also be part of the plan. Some doctors can also prescribe medication to reduce anxiety and depression if these emotions are the agitators. 

Sometimes seniors who live independently require assistance to manage conditions such as IBS. To successfully age in place, some seniors require the help of a professional caregiver. In Oklahoma, families rely on Home Care Assistance to provide caregivers who are expertly trained in various aspects of senior home care, including our holistic Balanced Care Method, an evidence-based program focused on healthy eating, regular exercise, mental and social stimulation, and calmness and purpose. For more information on our elder care services, call 405-285-4191 and speak with a Care Manager.