Crohn’s Disease and IBD among Seniors

Canada has one of the world’s highest case rates of Crohn’s Disease and IBD. 1 in 140 Canadians live with some form of inflammatory bowel disease. May 19th is the annual international day for over 50 countries to educate others about Crohn’s disease and Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). World IBD Day

Seniors with Crohn’s or colitis (IBD) are the fastest growing group in Canada, which can create a challenge for our healthcare system.

Crohn’s disease and colitis inflame the lining of the GI (gastrointestinal) tract and disrupt your body’s ability to absorb nutrition, digest food, and healthily eliminate waste.

The cause of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis is unknown, and to date, there is no cure; however, advancements in research and medical treatments continue to improve the management of the condition. As a chronic condition, it requires long-term management and treatment to control symptoms and minimize flare-ups. The goal of treatment is to achieve and maintain remission, which means reducing inflammation and symptom-free periods.

Coping with the physical symptoms of a chronic illness like Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis can be emotionally challenging as the body and the mind are connected. 

Depression is common in older people with IBD, with almost one out of four seniors reporting signs of major depression. It may be due to more significant disease flare-ups, poor quality of life, and not following treatment plans from health care providers. 

Older people are also more likely to experience complications of IBD, which need to be taken into account when considering the emotional impact of IBD. Conditions like arthritis, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and cancer are typically more prevalent in older people than in younger people with IBD.

Here are other ways IBD may affect our senior loved ones:

  1. Malnutrition and weight loss: Crohn’s disease can impair nutrient absorption and cause malnutrition, leading to weight loss and general weakness. In seniors, malnutrition can have more severe consequences and may impact their overall health and ability to recover from other illnesses or injuries.
  2. Medication challenges: Seniors with Crohn’s disease may already be taking medications for other health conditions. Managing Crohn’s disease alongside these medications can be challenging, as there may be interactions or side effects that need to be carefully monitored.
  3. Increased risk of infections: Aging can weaken the immune system, making seniors more susceptible to infections. Seniors with Crohn’s disease should be vigilant about practicing good hygiene and staying up-to-date with vaccinations.
  4. Impact on daily activities: Crohn’s disease can cause symptoms limiting seniors’ ability to perform daily activities. This can affect their independence and quality of life. Seniors may need to adjust their routines, including dietary modifications and bathroom accessibility, to manage their condition effectively.

Everyday tips to help your senior loved ones manage their well-being.

Follow a balanced and nutritious diet with foods that include a variety of nutrient-rich foods, fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. It’s also essential to stay hydrated and consider working with a registered dietitian specializing in gastrointestinal conditions for personalized dietary guidance.

Finding effective stress management techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or engaging in hobbies, can help reduce stress levels and promote well-being. Regular exercise, within your capabilities, can also be beneficial for both physical and mental health. Try to get outside every day for fresh air.

It’s essential to get enough rest and quality sleep, as fatigue is common with Crohn’s. Establishing a consistent sleep schedule and creating a comfortable sleeping environment can improve rest and overall well-being.

Symptoms of Crohn’s disease can lead to dehydration. Drink enough fluids throughout the day to maintain proper hydration. Water, herbal teas, and clear broths are good options. 

Regular communication with your healthcare team is essential for managing Crohn’s disease effectively. Be proactive in discussing your symptoms, concerns, and any changes in your condition. Your healthcare provider can offer guidance, adjust your treatment plan if needed, and address any questions you may have.

Build a support system with friends, family, and support groups who understand your experience. Sharing your feelings and experiences with others can help you feel less isolated and provide emotional support. 

Plan ahead for outings and travel. Locate restrooms, pack necessary supplies (such as extra medication or bathroom essentials), and inform travel companions about your condition. Having a plan in place can help you feel more confident and prepared.


Crohn’s and Colitis Canada

Fact Sheet – Older Adults with IBD

Watch this video to learn about Living with IBD in Older Adulthood. 

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