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Seniors Health: Coping with Constipation

Jan 31, 2018 by Comfort Keepers Newark, DE

Being a caregiver exposes you to many digestives issues, some of which may be more familiar than others.

One of the most common digestion problems is constipation. Its likelihood naturally increases as we age, but it can also be caused by a number of things. If you care for a loved one with chronic constipation, here’s what you need to know:

What is Constipation?

Constipation is a condition in which a person has a difficult time emptying their bowels, or defecating. The medical definition is having less than 3 bowel movements (or BMs) a week.

It’s not the most luxurious topic to talk about, but it definitely affects a lot of people – in fact, over 42 million Americans. 

 

Symptoms of Constipation:

  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Feeling full
  • Not having complete BMs
  • Straining during BMs
  • Hard, dry stools

What Causes Constipation?

As with all things, the lifestyle a person lives can greatly affect the quality and frequency of their BMs.

Seniors, unfortunately, tend to have a lifestyle that is conducive to constipation. The traits that contribute to the condition are:

  • Slower metabolism
  • Lack of thirst, leading to dehydration
  • Limited physical activity
  • Certain conditions such as Parkinson’s or multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Weak pelvic floor muscles
  • Medications; anything from antidepressants to narcotics

Even antacids and certain vitamin supplements can lead to constipation.

What Constipation Treatments Are Available?

Treatment of constipation at the start is usually very subtle, in hopes that the condition will naturally resolve on its own. For example, the healthcare provider usually recommends increasing water and fiber intake to help increase BM movements. Light exercise may also be recommended, as it works to encourage muscle movement in the bowels.

The patient’s medical conditions and medications/supplements taken will also be looked at to solve any underlying issues that may be inadvertently causing the constipation.

If necessary, certain medications, laxatives, or stool softeners may be given to the patient to help relieve them of the constipation.

What Happens If Constipation Doesn’t Get Treated?

Many complications can occur if the constipation is not relieved. Some of these include:

  • Hemorrhoids, inflamed and swollen veins in the anus and rectum that can be very uncomfortable and bleed.
  • Anal fissures, small tears in the anus tissue.
  • Fecal impaction, in which the bowel is completely blocked by a solid piece of feces that will not move. This is a true medical emergency, and is normally treated with laxatives, enemas or even surgery.

If your senior is having problems with constipation, try the diet and exercise tip to see if it will help them. If not, get them in to see their doctor.

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