Orange Caregivers Medical Blog – Constipation and the Elderly
Constipation and the Elderly
by Peter O.
The average American has about 3-5 bowel movements a week. One in three older adults report having constipation and more than 70,000 people are hospitalized every year because of constipation.
Constipation happens when the number of bowel movements decreases or when a person starts having hard stool. People strain during constipation and this can cause bleeding, make hemorrhoids worse and in severe cases, can result in blockage of stool inside the intestine.
Causes of constipation vary but mostly commonly it is because people do not drink enough water or because they do not eat enough foods high in fibers. The best ways of preventing constipation is to make sure the elderly stay active, drink enough fluid and eat foods rich in fibers such as fruits and vegetables. Avoid foods that are low in fibers, especially processed carbohydrates. Also try to have a bowel movement after eating and when possible, use a small stool to support your feet instead of putting them on the floor.
Increasing the amount of foods high in fiber can sometimes cause stomach cramps and gas. However, these usually go away after a while. You should contact your doctor if these do not help and if you are having symptoms such as bleeding, or experiencing a lot of pain while having a bowel movement. Also report to your care team if you are having dark stool as this may also be a sign of bleeding. Several over the counter medications exist. We advise that you do not take any over the counter medicine without talking with your pharmacist or healthcare team.
- MOUNSEY, A., RALEIGH, M. and WILSON, A. (2015). Management of constipation in older adults. American Family Physician. 15;92(6):500-504.
- American Gastroenterology Association. (2017). Retrieved September 9, 2017
Disclaimer: This information is not meant to diagnose or treat any conditions. If you think you are at risk of falling or have fallen, please contact your medical team as soon as possible.
About the Author:
Peter O. studied at the University of Buea, West Africa, MedCentral College of Nursing in Ohio and Alcorn State University in Mississippi. He is a holder of two Bachelor’s degrees and two Master of Science degrees in both Biology and in Nursing. He is a board certified Family Nurse Practitioner with the American Academy of Nurse practitioners. He has a passion for health education which is why he is volunteering his time for short healthcare articles for Orange Caregivers. Outside work, he treasures spending time with his family and enjoys reading, listening to music and playing tennis.