If your elderly parent has been complaining of a burning sensation in his stomach that gets worse at night, it’s possible he might have a peptic ulcer. A peptic ulcer occurs when there is excessive acid in the digestive tract. It eats away at the inner surface of the stomach or small intestine and creates an open sore. That sore becomes very painful and may bleed or even eat through the entire wall and create internal bleeding.
Some lifestyle behaviors may increase the risk (and the pain) associated with peptic ulcers. Alone, many of these factors may not cause ulcers, but they can make them worse and harder to heal. If your parent has any of these risk factors and complains of stomach pain to you or anyone providing companion care at home, set up an appointment to determine the cause before it gets worse.
Regular use of certain pain relievers
If your parent needs to use NSAIDs regularly, they may irritate his stomach and bring about painful ulcers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can irritate or inflame the lining of the stomach and small intestine. These medications include ibuprofen (such as Advil, and Motrin IB), naproxen sodium (such as Aleve), ketoprofen, and others. They do not include acetaminophen (such as Tylenol). It is often worse if taken on an empty stomach. Have your companion care at home provider give your parent some food or a drink like milk when distributing these types of painkillers.
While smoking doesn’t cause a peptic ulcer, it will aggravate it and make it much more difficult to heal. If your parent has ulcers because of an infection, smoking can increase complications. Helping your parent to quit smoking is always the best answer. Look for cessation programs in your community.
Having a daily glass of wine or other alcohol, especially before bed, can aggravate peptic ulcers. Alcohol irritates and erodes the mucous lining of the stomach, as well as increases the amount of stomach acid that’s produced. If your parent uses alcohol to help unwind at the end of the day, help him find new rituals to help him unwind such as playing calming music or even having a warm glass of milk before bedtime. Your companion care at home provider might have some great ideas to help him relax at the end of the day and find a substitute for that nightly drink.
Stress increases the acids in the stomach and may lead to worsening the symptoms of peptic ulcers along with other negative health effects. Finding healthy ways to deal with stress is beneficial for your parent in many ways. It might be a new hobby, an activity, or some meditation that will help him reduce his stress.
If your parent loves spicy foods but struggles with peptic ulcers, he might need to give them up or at least tame them down a bit.
While your parent might think, “oh, it’s just an ulcer,” it’s important to treat it and eliminate the factors that will make it worse and make him miserable.