Constipation in Seniors: 6 Effective Home Remedies

Try these 6 effective home remedies for constipation in seniors

By Connie Chow, Founder at DailyCaring

Chronic constipation is a common issue for seniors

Constipation is an issue that many older adults deal with on a regular basis. And this chronic digestive discomfort can seriously affect your older adult’s life.

It can cause them to not want to eat or exercise and can make them cranky and uncooperative. 

It could also cause unwanted behavior in people with Alzheimer’s or dementia – like taking off their incontinence briefs at inappropriate times.

To help older adults get relief, we found an article from The New York Times that shares useful tips for relieving chronic constipation at home in safe, gentle ways. 

The tips are based on research by Dr. Arnold Wald, a gastroenterologist at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

We highlight the points from the article that are most useful for caregivers and cover why chronic constipation in seniors is so common, what constipation actually is, 6 effective home remedies for chronic constipation, and when it’s necessary to see the doctor.


Why is chronic constipation in seniors common?

Older adults are more likely to have chronic constipation because of:

  • Side effects from medications like opiates for pain (Percocet, Oxycontin, Norco), antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and antihistamines
  • Medical conditions like strictures, tumors, Parkinson’s disease, or low thyroid
  • Slowing or weakening of the digestive system due to aging or frailty


What’s the medical definition of constipation?

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have a bowel movement every day in order to be considered regular. 

But more than 3 days without a bowel movement is too long. And by then, stool has become harder and more difficult to pass.

Constipation symptoms include:

  • Few bowel movements
  • Trouble having a bowel movement (straining)
  • Small or hard stools
  • Feeling like everything didn’t come out
  • Swollen abdomen or abdominal pain
  • Vomiting


6 effective home remedies for chronic constipation in seniors

Constipation can often be solved with these 6 simple home remedies.

But if the situation doesn’t improve soon, it’s important to speak to their doctor in case constipation is a symptom of a more serious health condition.

1. Avoid constipating foods like:

  • White rice and other refined grains
  • Unripe bananas
  • Tea
  • Cheese
  • Chocolate

2. Regularly eat (and drink) foods like:

  • Beans
  • Whole grains, especially bran
  • Vegetables
  • Fresh and dried fruit
  • Nuts
  • High-fiber foods
  • Water — softens stool and stimulates the bowel

Important: If their doctor says that constipation is caused by a nerve or muscle problem, they may recommend that your older adult eats less fiber and instead, use medication that adds water to the colon to soften stool.

3. Exercise regularly and as vigorously as possible
Exercise and regular physical activity is great for overall health, so it’s no surprise that it also helps regulate the digestive system.

4. Establish a regular bathroom time and also respond immediately to the urge to go
It’s a good idea to have a daily routine where your older adult at least “tries” to go at the same time every day. 

But anytime they feel the urge, they should still go immediately.

5. Take a daily soluble fiber supplement
Add a soluble fiber supplement like Benefiber or Metamucil to beverages. 

Today’s formulas are easier to take because they dissolve completely, aren’t gritty, and don’t thicken beverages. They also come in flavorless options that can be added to any beverage.

Important: If their doctor says that constipation is caused by a nerve or muscle problem, they may recommend that your older adult eats less fiber and instead, use medication that adds water to the colon to soften stool.

6. Use laxatives properly
Dr. Wald’s research showed that long-term use of stimulant laxatives like Senokot or Dulcolax shouldn’t harm the colon or cause dependence if they’re used in recommended amounts. 

Of course, it’s essential for your older adult’s doctor to approve the laxative, recommend an appropriate dose, and continue to monitor your older adult as long as they’re taking it.


When to see the doctor about constipation

Don’t hesitate to discuss frequent or ongoing constipation with your older adult’s doctor.

And if you’ve tried a combination of dietary changes, exercise, and over-the-counter remedies and your older adult isn’t getting any relief, see the doctor to rule out other medical conditions.


Next Step  Read the full article at the New York Times


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Author: Connie Chow, founder at DailyCaring, was a hands-on caregiver for her grandmother for 20 years – until grandma was 101 years old! Connie has an MBA from the University of Southern California and has been featured on major news outlets, including WJCL22 Savannah (ABC), KRON4 San Francisco, NBC10 Philadelphia, 23ABC Bakersfield, KAGS Texas (NBC), and KVAL13 Oregon (CBS). She has spoken at Institute on Aging, written for Sixty and Me, and been quoted in top publications, including U.S. News & World Report, HuffPost, and Society of Senior Advisors.


This article wasn’t sponsored, but does contain affiliate links. We never link to products or services for the sole purpose of making a commission. Recommendations are based on our honest opinions. For more information, see How We Make Money.


  • Reply September 23, 2021


    How about constipation and Alzheimer’s? …..what to do when the need to go is not recognized in time or at all?

    • Reply September 23, 2021


      With someone who has Alzheimer’s or dementia, it’s best to establish a regular schedule for using the bathroom. Over time, that helps their body get used to going at those regular times. More info here – Why a Daily Routine Is Important for Seniors: 3 Top Benefits

      This can also help avoid accidents because you no longer rely on the person to know that they need to use the bathroom. With cognitive impairment, the person may no longer be aware of this need.

      To help with constipation, we hope the suggestions in this article above are helpful.

  • Reply September 21, 2021


    Every person is different. When trying to figure out what is causing the problem – ask the person! Someone who had a normal pattern of 1x/week when active healthy and middle-aged is not going to convert to every 3rd day.
    What did the person do in the past when they couldn’t pass BM?
    Sometimes the answer is as simple as stewed prunes or prune juice, warm milk with blackstrap molasses, etc. It might seem ‘weird’ or ‘gross to us, but trying it out to see if it is effective is a good step.
    Often the urge to move bowels comes about 30-60 minutes after a meal, and is strongest in the morning. High fiber cereal with fruit, hot coffee, OJ with pulp, and then moving to the toilet when the urge hits is what you need.
    People often ‘hold it’ if they are getting ready to go out in the car, or the aide arrives to help with a shower, or. not wanting to leave odor in the bathroom.
    Try to see if these behaviors are factors.
    These are all non medical interventions.

  • Reply February 25, 2021

    alvin dattner

    I just learned about the over dose of magnesia and long term kidney damage. Even though I have confidence in my primary doctor, I’m sure that his point of view may be biased possibly with a limited knowledge or exposure like a research chemist.
    If some expert has a magic answer or pill, it can rival the atom bomb for the entire world!!! We need another Einstein or Madam Curie!!!!!!!!!!


    • Reply February 26, 2021


      It’s essential to speak with your doctor to find out if a specific medication, whether it’s over-the-counter or prescription, is helpful and how long it can be used for. If you’re concerned about your doctor’s recommendation, you might want to see another physician to get a second opinion.

  • Reply February 25, 2021

    alvin dattnwe

    Generic dulcalux works for me by taking 2 little pills and expect results in about 12 hours. Usually I can expect results for the next day as well from the 2 pills.
    I’m very concerned about long term liver damage. I usually take 2 pills about twice a week
    I took Mira lux years ago (I’m 94 now) and tried it mixed with food and did not like it or the taste.

    • Reply February 26, 2021


      It’s important to speak with your doctor to find out if a specific medication, whether it’s over-the-counter or prescription, is helpful and how long it can be used for. Each person’s body and health conditions are different, so your doctor would be the best person to advise you on a safe long-term treatment.

  • Reply January 3, 2021

    Jen T.

    Why put an older person on medication when magnesium citrate caps or liquid (without additional additives!) works well for the majority of healthy seniors? Stewed prunes as well. Don’t complicate things or create new problems with the side effects of medicines…

    • Reply January 3, 2021


      Adding a magnesium supplement is similar to adding a medication. The doctor would need to be consulted ahead of time to make sure it wouldn’t interact negatively with any existing medications or chronic health conditions.

      In some cases, if making all possible lifestyle changes doesn’t work for someone’s specific health condition, a doctor-supervised medication may be necessary.

    • Reply January 15, 2021


      Some older seniors already incorporate every item you mentioned in their daily regimen and still have constipation issues where they can’t move their bowels for days at a time. And even though hypermagnesemia is rare (normally functioning kidneys filter out excess magnesium), it is common for older seniors to have impaired kidney function to one degree or another. Some OTR laxatives can have high amounts of magnesium…just have to aware of the overall picture on a case by case basis.

      • Reply January 15, 2021


        Yes, as recommended in the article, it’s essential to get advice from a doctor before taking any medications, whether over-the-counter or by prescription. And, if lifestyle and diet changes aren’t helping the situation, it’s important to speak with the doctor to get their recommendation.

        • Reply February 15, 2021

          sridhar reddy

          good. I want innovation in constipation redy

  • Reply October 4, 2020

    dilip Mahajan

    cronic constipation. age 68 .

    • Reply November 10, 2020


      We hope the suggestions above will be helpful in relieving the constipation.

  • Reply July 7, 2019


    I took a Dulcolax laxative pill and nothing happened. The pill had expired 6 months ago. Is that the cause ? Should I try a different laxative? I’m usually successful with Dukcolax stool softener with mild laxative but I have to take 2 for it to work any recommendations?

    • Reply July 7, 2019


      The best thing to do is to call your doctor to get their advice. We’re not doctors or medical professionals, so unfortunately we aren’t able to provide any specific recommendations.

  • Reply January 6, 2019


    What daily health maintenance supplements are good for seniors? Thank so much.

    • Reply January 7, 2019


      Each person’s health conditions and needs are different so it’s best to talk with your older adult’s primary doctor to find out if they recommend any vitamins or supplements. And if someone is already taking other medications or over the counter drugs, a doctor should review any added vitamins or supplements for possible negative side effects or drug interactions.

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