Constipation in Seniors: 6 Effective Home Remedies

constipation in seniors: 6 home remedies

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

To help your older adult 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 constipation in seniors is so common, what constipation actually is, 6 effective home remedies for constipation, and when it’s necessary to see the doctor.




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Why constipation in seniors is so common

Seniors 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 relieving 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.




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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

Don’t hesitate to discuss 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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By DailyCaring Editorial Team
Image: mimonis

 

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.


4 Comments

  • Reply July 7, 2019

    Rob

    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

      DailyCaring

      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

    Ngozi

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

    • Reply January 7, 2019

      DailyCaring

      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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