It’s no secret that age affects different systems in the body, including the digestive system. Gastroesophageal reflux disease, also known as GERD, is a description of when the stomach contents travel back up the esophagus. It is an uncomfortable and even painful chronic condition, especially in aging adults. In fact, elderly adults are more likely to develop GERD, and family caregivers must be on the lookout for symptoms, so they can help their aging loved one with treatment.
What Exactly is GERD?
The muscles around the esophagus, including the one that closes the esophagus once food has passed through start to weaken with age. When the aging adult eats certain trigger foods, or lays down too soon after eating, the contents of the stomach flow backward. The muscles are not able to keep the stomach’s contents where they are supposed to be, and it flows back up into the throat and even the mouth. When food, stomach acid, and more flows back up to these softer tissues, it causes them discomfort, pain, and damage.
The symptoms of GERD include coughing, sore throat, heartburn, nausea, and a persistent bitter taste. Over the long term, GERD can lead to all kinds of throat and mouth issues, including cancer. It’s very important for family caregivers to recognize the symptoms of GERD and get their aging loved one the medical help they need for treatments.
Treating GERD in Aging Adults.
When a doctor diagnoses GERD in the aging adult, they will likely prescribe some medicine that helps control the stomach acid. However, the most effective thing that people can do to minimize the symptoms is to make extreme modifications to their lifestyle. Elderly adults who have physical limitations that affect their ability to live independently depend on family caregivers and senior care providers to assist them in maintaining treatment.
The first thing that seniors can do to control the symptoms of GERD is to avoid trigger food, such as spicy foods, chocolate, fried food, onions, and alcohol. Next, elderly adults should not lie down within a few hours after eating. At night they may be more comfortable with a foam wedge pillow to keep their head and shoulders elevated. Finally, seniors should always take the medicine that the doctor provides on time and with the right combination of food and drink. Senior care providers can help with all of these steps, making sure the aging adult is in compliance with treatment.
When family caregivers and senior care providers get involved in supporting an elderly adult’s GERD treatment plan, the chances of successful management are much better. While it won’t cure the senior’s digestive issues, taking the proper steps will certainly improve their condition and leave them comfortable and healthy.