April is Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) Awareness Month. This month is devoted to bringing attention to this illness which is not only inconvenient, but uncomfortable and even painful as well!
If you are responsible for the home care of an aging parent or patient, you may be at your wit’s end from helping them deal with symptoms like diarrhea, abdominal cramping, constipation, and nausea. IBS comes and goes at random intervals, so it is hard to find a way to really get a handle on it.
That being said, though, there are many ways that you can help to control or even eliminate a lot of the symptoms caused by IBS – and many of them do not involve the use of medication, which is good news for seniors who are already taking other medicines.
Here is a list of five ways to help relieve IBS symptoms in seniors:
- Deal with stress – According to aboutibs.org, one of the leading causes of IBS is stress. Studies have shown that elderly men and women receiving home care are very likely to suffer from other stress-related illnesses such as anxiety and depression, and IBS goes hand-in-hand with these. To decrease the level of stress in your loved one or patient, try suggesting that they do breathing exercises to calm their minds and bodies, and try things like meditation or light yoga. You can also suggest that they listen to soothing music, or watch something funny on television. There are many different ways to decrease stress without medication, and just a little relaxation can go a long way to relieving IBS symptoms.
- Look for a link with food – Have you noticed that your senior often feels bloated after eating dairy products? Or gets diarrhea after eating strawberries? Or constipation after having cereal? Many foods can trigger IBS symptoms, but these foods vary from person to person. Try to find out which foods cause problems for your aging loved one, and then avoid them as well as you can to see if their symptoms go away.
- Fiber – Some doctors recommend that IBS sufferers add more fiber to their diets in order to combat their symptoms. This could make going to the bathroom easier when symptoms involve constipation, or could lead to more normal stool for those whose problems include diarrhea. (You may want to check with your doctor before adding fiber to your senior’s diet, though, because in some people it causes the opposite effect than the one you were hoping for!)
- Medications – Although medication is surely the last thing that you want to give to an aging loved one who is already taking many other medicines, there are some anti-spasmodic medicines that can help to relieve the bowel spasms caused by IBS, which can lead to much less cramping. In extreme cases, a doctor may also prescribe a tranquilizer or anti-depressant to calm the entire body and mind, which, in turn, calms the irritable bowel.
- Walking and light exercise – As with many other illnesses, getting out into the fresh air and engaging one’s muscles can go a long way toward improving one’s health as well. A short walk or a few minutes of physical exercise every day can help to relax the body and get blood flowing, which can untangle those painful knots in the bowel.
In addition to these five tips, consult with your doctor to see if there are any other ways that you can help ease the symptoms of IBS. It is an uncomfortable disease, but there is relief available!
If you or an aging family member are considering hiring home care in Sandy Springs, GA, please contact the caring staff at Caring Companions of Atlanta 470-514-5954.
We provide quality non-medical services to our clients in their homes or in a facility if that’s where they live. Our staff is available for care plans for extensive care 24 hours a day, 7 days a week or as little as 4 hours per visit. Reach out to us, and one of our outstanding administrative staff will meet with potential clients to assist them and their families in designing an effective, personal plan of care.