When it comes to the digestive system, age certainly plays a role in how well everything works. When family caregivers and home care helpers understand some of the challenges that seniors may face with digestive tract disorders, they can do what it takes to make things easier. Here’s a look at each part of the digestive system and how it may be affected by age.
Age can affect how the mouth performs its job of breaking food into digestible pieces. Many seniors have dentures, and problems with false teeth can lead to pain and problems with chewing. Saliva production can also drop due to age, making dry mouth something that seniors must overcome.
The esophagus contracts to move food downward, but in some elderly adults, this gets weaker with age. Esophageal contractions might be significantly affected by a stroke or other partial paralysis, too.
Over the years, the stomach lining weakens, making it easier for damage to occur and the risk for ulcers and stomach bleeding increases. Decreased elasticity of the stomach wall also reduces the amount of food the stomach can handle. In many seniors, the stomach doesn’t produce as much acid as it used to, decreasing digestive abilities. However, stomach acid is more likely to flow up into the esophagus, causing heartburn.
The pancreas is the organ responsible for secreting digestive enzymes and insulin, but this production can decrease with age. The pancreas reduces in size and in output, which could lead to the development of type 2 diabetes in many seniors.
Many older adults experience problems with the digestive capacity of the small intestine. For example, too much bacterial overgrowth can trigger bloating, pain and weight loss. The small intestine may also slow down the rate of absorption of nutrients into the body due to age.
The contractions and movement of food through the large intestine can diminish with age. This can lead to constipation. Many medicines that seniors take can also have a negative influence on the way the large intestine functions.
Anyone can develop polyps in the colon but the risk increases for those over age 50. Polyps can lead to cancer if they are not removed.
Family caregivers and home care aides should remember that age can significantly affect the digestive system and lead to sluggish metabolism and an increasingly sensitive stomach. The best way for elderly adults to minimize their digestive problems is to eat a healthy diet, get active, maintain a proper weight, and drink plenty of water. Doctors can also look at the medications the elderly person is on to ensure that they are not contributing to the issue.
Family caregivers and home care assistants should also know the difference between digestive issues and serious problems. If the elderly adult is experiencing rapid weight loss, growing abdominal pain and bleeding, they should see a doctor right away.
If you or an aging loved one are considering home care in Crawfordville, FL, please call the caring staff at Hopewell In-Home Senior Care today at 850-386-5552. Providing Senior Care Services in North Florida
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