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If you’re the primary caregiver for an older adult with digestive issues, you know how difficult it can be to navigate. You have to honor their boundaries, while also making sure that their needs are taken care of.
Digestive conditions can make caregiving seem daunting, so we’ve put together a few tips to make the situation easier for both you and your loved one!
Keep communication lines open
Most people prefer to keep their bowel habits and digestive symptoms to themselves. If your loved one is experiencing digestive issues, it could be essential for you to check in on their symptoms.
Even though it may be uncomfortable for both of you at first, having the ability to talk openly about how they’re feeling is key to being able to meet their needs. For example, they could be experiencing constipation but are too embarrassed to ask you for a stool softener.
The more you normalize these seemingly taboo topics, the easier it will become to talk about.
Support food autonomy
If your loved one is dealing with constipation, diarrhea, or other digestive concerns, their healthcare team may have recommended that they make changes to their diet.
Even if you are the one doing the grocery shopping or cooking, it’s important to give your loved one a say in their food choices. You can encourage them to make changes without forcing it on them.
If you are concerned that the dietary changes are not possible for your loved one to make, it’s a good idea to consult with a registered dietitian (RD).
Maintain dignity and privacy
Depending on the severity of the digestive condition and the overall state of their health, your loved one may require hands-on care from you. This could include helping them get to the bathroom, changing an ostomy bag, or assisting with tube feeding.
It can sometimes be difficult to know if your loved one is able to do certain things on their own, or if they need help. You can offer your help and be available to lend a hand if requested.
Caregiving can be a bumpy road and the addition of a digestive condition can make it feel even more rocky. It’s important to know that you are not alone in this and can surround yourself with other supportive family members and caregivers who can relate to your experience.