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How IBS Affects Elderly

We’re about halfway through April, which happens to be IBS awareness month, so here at Home Care Assistance in Summit we’d like to take a little time to discuss the minor, but common, health issue.

What is IBS?

Gastrointestinal disturbances are among the most common complaints of senior citizens. When no specific diagnosis can be made, the term Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is used to describe a variety of ongoing symptoms, such as frequent constipation, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. In addition, gas or bloating, mucousy stools, and stools that frequently change composition are often counted among IBS symptoms. While the cause of IBS has not been identified, women are more likely to suffer than men, and the disorder does seem to run in families.

Diagnosing IBS

Any combination of symptoms can lead to a diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome, so tracking episodes is the first step in confirming diagnosis. While the symptoms of IBS may appear and disappear, a diagnosis may still be possible if symptoms are tracked over time and no other cause can be identified. It is important to note that any IBS symptoms that are accompanied by weight loss, vomiting, lethargy, or blood in the stool may point to a more serious condition and warrant the immediate attention of a physician.

Finding Relief

Although IBS is an uncomfortable and inconvenient condition, it is not life threatening and there are several ways to alleviate its symptoms. The first is to encourage your senior loved one to keep a food journal to identify foods that trigger attacks. Many seniors find that fried foods, chocolate, and certain food additives such as sorbitol are triggers. Staying well hydrated and engaging in appropriate exercise are known to bring relief, along with eating smaller meals and reducing caffeine intake. Stress can also cause flair ups, as can smoking. Include your loved one’s Summit caregiver in the conversation with the physician as well so he or she can keep your senior loved one on track when you’re not present.

In addition to lifestyle changes, doctors may use medication to treat the worst symptoms. Depending on which symptoms are most troublesome, a prescription or over-the-counter medication may be in order. Common drugs include antidiarrheals like atropine, or laxatives such as Milk of Magnesia. For pain and bloating, antispasmodic drugs such as dicyclomine are commonly prescribed.

Interested in learning more about senior health and wellness? Give Home Care Assistance a call at 908.450.9400. Although we specialize in live-in care in Summit, we also offer flexible hourly care plans to ensure your senior loved one’s needs are being met, even if he or she only needs assistance a few hours each week with exercise and healthy meal prep to help prevent IBS episodes. With an uncomfortable, but minor issue like IBS, prevention is key and we are here to help in anyway we can!