Studies suggest that the course and recommended treatment of IBD in the elderly does not vary greatly from that of a younger patient. The length of time between initial symptoms and diagnosis may be longer for older adults than for younger patients for various reasons. These include the fact that IBD presents with different symptoms in older patients than in younger ones and a patient’s physician must rule out other possible diseases. Special considerations must be taken into account, such as a patient’s ability to live independently, the presence of other diseases or illnesses and the medications the patient is taking for these other conditions. For example, biologic therapy (one of many treatments for IBD) may have adverse effects if a patient has congestive heart failure or if used with certain rheumatoid arthritis medications, may increase the risk for infection.
Depending on their health and mobility, elderly IBD patients may require additional help with medical care and everyday tasks. This may reduce some of the physical and emotional toll the disease takes on a patient’s life. Patients should be made aware of their mediclaim policy and health insurance coverage for treating their chronic illnesses.
Alcohol and tobacco affect each IBD patient differently. However, its use should be limited because of its potential for making IBD symptoms worse, damaging the patient’s overall health and interfering with medications.
While there is no specific diet that will make the inflammation associated with IBD better or worse, for any individual, certain foods may worsen symptoms. The doctor, dietitian or nurse may outline a diet that meets the patient’s specific needs. It is important to stick to this plan to ensure that the nutritional and caloric needs are met and flares are kept to a minimum.
Seniors are less able to withstand dehydration, which may occur with diarrhea. It is advisable for seniors to drink plenty of fluids, even with infrequent diarrhea.
One of the easiest ways to manage IBD is by regularly taking prescribed medication. Sticking to a routine, setting reminders and utilizing pill counters are just a few ways of ensuring that the elderly patient gets daily dose.
In addition to IBD medications, IBD patients may be taking one or more medications to prevent certain illnesses, such as low-dose aspirin or warfarin following a heart attack. These medications may interact with those for IBD or worsen IBD symptoms. It is important for all elderly patients to tell their doctor about all of the medications they are taking, and alert their physician if they suspect a problem.
Elderly patients may need to keep a daily journal to write down information such as daily meals and activities, along with specific details regarding each flare he or she experiences. In time, patterns may help the patient and their doctor understand why they happen, and how to avoid them.
It is important for all patients to maintain a complete and current file of their medical records and understand all their diseases for successful disease management. Along with copies of doctor’s notes and laboratory, endoscopy, pathology, and radiology reports, patients should be made aware of:
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