Almost everyone has constipation at some point in their lives. Older people are more likely to have constipation than younger people, but it’s usually not a big deal for the young.
Constipation means that you have fewer bowel movements than usual, that your stools are hard, and that it takes you a long time to pass them. Constipation is a sign of a health problem, not a health problem in and of itself.
Some people can’t stop thinking about how they have to have a bowel movement every day. There is no healthy number of bowel movements per day or week. Every person has a different idea of what it means to be regular. Some people need to go to the bathroom at least twice a day. Others think it’s normal to go to the bathroom three times a week.
How to determine if a senior is constipated?
Based on experts’ suggestions, here are a few questions that family members or live-in or live-out caregivers can ask the elderly to determine if they are constipated:
- Do you regularly have a bowel movement, less than three times a week?
- Do you have trouble with bowel movements regularly?
- Do you usually have lumpy or hard stools?
- Do you feel like your bowels are backed up or that you haven’t emptied them all the way?
If they answer “yes” to one or more questions above, they may be constipated.
Why do seniors get constipated?
When someone has constipation, doctors don’t always know what’s causing it. For example, It could be because of what they eat, how much they move around, or how often they use laxatives.
Constipation can be caused by many different things, such as:
Constipation can happen if older people don’t eat enough high-fibre foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Constipation can also be caused by eating a lot of high-fat meats, dairy products, eggs, rich desserts, and sweets with a lot of sugar.
Seniors who live alone may find it hard to keep cooking and eating interesting. So, they start to rely on ready-made meals. Most of these foods are low in fiber, which can lead to constipation if you eat too much of them. Also, seniors who have problems with their teeth are more likely to eat soft, processed foods that are low in fibre.
2) Liquids including water
Several studies have shown that older people don’t drink enough water and other fluids. This is especially true when older people don’t eat regularly according to a schedule. If an older person drinks a lot of water or other liquids, it may be easier for them to stay regular.
3) Laxatives and enemas
Most people think that taking laxatives is a way to treat constipation. But if you use laxatives often, your body may get used to doing what it needs to do on its own. Laxatives can cause diarrhea if they are used too much. For the same reason, an older person’s body may get used to enemas if they do them often. Excessive use of enemas may result in the inability to have normal bowel motions.
4) Lack of exercise
Constipation can happen when seniors don’t move around much or stay in bed for a long time because they are sick or recovering from surgery. Doctors can give medicine to elderly people who are stuck in their beds and have trouble going to the bathroom. Whenever they can, seniors should try to be more active.
5) Keeping bowel movements in check
If seniors don’t go to the bathroom when they have an urge to have a bowel movement over a long time, they might get constipation.
6) Medical conditions
Constipation can be caused by several diseases, like a stroke, diabetes, or a blockage in the intestines. The muscles or nerves that control normal bowel movements can be hurt by these conditions.
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is another condition that is linked to constipation (IBS). It is a common condition of the intestines that can cause pain, bloating, and either diarrhea or constipation.
A doctor can do tests to find out if the problem is a medical one or not. Most health problems can be taken care of.
Some medicines can cause constipation as a side effect. Some antidepressants, antacids with aluminum or calcium, iron supplements, pain relievers, medications for high blood pressure, like diuretics, and medications for Parkinson’s disease are examples of these kinds of drugs.
How to treat constipation in seniors?
A doctor should be consulted if a senior has constipation so that more serious issues can be ruled out. If tests show no signs of disease or blockage, and if the doctor gives the family or the senior’s caregiver permission, the following changes can be made to address constipation.
- Increase the fibre in seniors’ diets by having them eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, cooked or raw, as well as more whole-grain cereals and bread. Dry fruits like figs, prunes, and apricots have a lot of fibre and can be incorporated into a senior’s diet. But they should be eaten in moderation.
If the food the seniors eat doesn’t have enough natural fibre, you may need to add a little bran to baked goods, cereal, and fruit. This could cause some gas and bloat at the. Change the diet slowly to give the body of the senior time to adjust. Look for other ways to add fibre to their diet, like through psyllium seed or flax.
- Make sure the senior drinks a lot of water. Seniors who don’t drink enough fluids can make their constipation worse. Making sure they drink enough water and juice can help them go have bowel movements more often. Talk to the senior’s doctor about how much water he or she needs to drink each day.
- Make sure the senior stays active. This is not only good for their health in general but also fights constipation. If you can, try to do things that will keep the senior active and busy. For instance, you could take a walk with them or encourage them to help you out in the kitchen.
- If the above changes don’t work, talk to the senior’s doctor about taking laxatives. There are a lot of different kinds of laxatives, and each has its pros and cons. The doctor can help you figure out which laxatives will work best for the senior.
Want to Learn More?
ConsidraCare’s live-in caregivers are trained to deal with many senior conditions, including constipation. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call us at 1-855-410-7971, and we will be happy to understand and help you with the care needs of a loved one.