Helping Our Seniors Fight GERD – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

As we observe another health ‘holiday’, this time Gastroesophageal Reflux (GERD), we are reminded that GERD can be limiting our seniors’ independence.

GERD is a disease where the acid from the stomach or bile backs up into the esophagus (food pipe) at the point of the lower esophageal sphincter. Having a hiatal hernia compounds the problem.

It results in pain that can be severe mimicking chest pain.

Often called heartburn, GERD can cause those who suffer from it many symptoms including:

  • Bloating
  • Bloody or black stools or bloody vomiting
  • Burping
  • Dysphagia — a narrowing of your esophagus causing difficulty swallowing food and fluid
  • Hiccups that don’t stop
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss for no known reason

There are 3 million people affected by GERD!

50% of all those with GERD symptoms report that they have more heartburn at night than in the day.

63% report trouble sleeping and 40% said that daily functioning was compromised the next day.

Lifestyle changes can make the symptoms better but sometimes medication is needed so if symptoms persist, talk with your doctor to develop a treatment plan.

Reducing the Symptoms of GERD

Here are some things your senior can do to alleviate GERD:

  1. Avoid foods that can trigger an attack such as chocolate, peppermint, coffee, carbonated beverages, fried food, and alcohol.
  2. Avoid foods that irritate sensitive gastrointestinal tissue such as acid foods, citrus, tomatoes, spicy food, and pepper.
  3. Stop smoking
  4. Eat more frequent, smaller meals to avoid being overfull and don’t eat within 2-3 hours of bedtime
  5. Elevate your head while sleeping with extra pillows or a bed wedge
  6. Keep weight in control, as excess belly fat can push up on the stomach
  7. Review your medication list with a pharmacist to determine if a medication is increasing symptoms

Additional Resources

Here are some articles you might find helpful for your senior loved one.