Colonoscopy and Your Senior Loved One

Many of our senior loved ones have already been on the receiving end (pun intended – sorry!) of a colonoscopy under the advice of their doctor.

More of our seniors and their family caregivers may be aware of the need to get tested as we celebrate Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. Everyone who has been through it even once knows that it is no picnic.

We agree that getting a procedure done as scheduled is the smartest thing seniors and their caregivers can do to fight colon cancer.

Colonoscopies can detect problems and allow your doctor to treat any irregularities quickly and therefore should be done when prescribed by your physician.

We have a few tips that might make it a bit more pleasant for your senior loved one and you!

  1. Follow the instructions carefully. Be sure your senior drinks or eats only what is recommended. The better the prep, the more accurate your results.
  2. Be aware of the time you schedule your senior’s appointment. Most people usually like to be the first one through the door in the morning, but you may want to schedule for late afternoon so you can do most of the prep the same day and reduce the need to be without food and fluid the day before.
  3. When your senior is in the middle of his prep, be aware of the likelihood of certain bodily functions overtaking your senior. Keep him close to the bathroom to avoid embarrassing accidents. Remember that the fluids and laxatives may cause nausea in some people so it is best to take a 15 minute break in between liquids, etc. to allow your senior time to settle his stomach.
  4. Have someone with your senior to drive them, assist them if needed and take them home. There will be paperwork involved and they will likely need an advisor. Don’t forget the glasses! (When I had mine done, they took my glasses away and then asked me to sign the consent for anesthesia.  I had to refuse until they could bring me my glasses so I knew what I was signing!)
  5. Your senior will be sedated for the procedure so be sure they are mentally clear before you leave them on their own at home.
  6. Handle the insurance issues up front. Medical insurance or Medicare generally covers a screening colonoscopy if you are over 50 years. If it should go from screening to diagnostic when a polyp is removed or a biopsy is taken, you may be responsible for a portion of the bill.  If you have not investigated whether these costs are covered or all health providers are in your network, the bill could be overwhelming.
  7. Be sure to have clear liquid foods ready, such as juice, jello, chicken broth or sports drinks so your senior takes enough nourishment on the clear liquid day.
  8. When your senior goes to the procedure, they should dress in clothing that is not only comfortable but easy to get on and off. Try not to wear clothes that require a lot of fastening that aging hands may not be able to handle when in a weakened condition.

Even though it may seem like a lot of trouble to set it up, complete the prep and recover from the procedure, the ability to detect a potentially fatal cancer is well worth any unpleasantness and hardship for your senior (or you)!

We wish you well!