Thanks to his diuretics, my 86-year-old father is beating a regular path to the bathroom. “Get out of my way,” he jokingly yells down the hallway — and sometimes, not as jokingly, tells one of the dogs, “Move!” But despite his constant presence in the bathroom, Dad often complains of constipation.
He’s not alone. The National Institute of Aging reports that older people are more likely to be constipated than their younger counterparts. Since there isn’t a “correct” number of times to have a bowel movement daily (or weekly), doctors may ask a variety of questions to determine if an elder is constipated. Their questions may assess the following:
- Whether the elder has three or fewer weekly bowel movements;
- Whether the elder experiences difficulty in passing bowel movements;
- Whether the bowel movements are hard or lumpy; or
- Whether the elder has a feeling of being blocked or of not fully having emptied his/her bowels.
Three tips to help elders deal with constipation
One way to help the elder have more frequent and better bowel movements is through lifestyle changes, including:
- Changing the elder’s diet. Bowel movements often can improve when the elder increases his/her consumption of vegetables and fruit, whole grains and beans while decreasing the amount of high-fat meats, dairy products, eggs, prepared foods, processed foods, rich desserts and sugary sweets that are eaten.
- Drinking more water. Drinks containing caffeine (e.g. coffee or soda) can lead to dehydration…which can worsen symptoms. Elders should stay hydrated, drinking water, especially after they have an alcoholic drink or a drink that contains caffeine.
- Get active. Although doctors don’t know why, a lack of physical activity may cause constipation. For example, the NDDIC reports “…constipation often occurs after an accident or during an illness when one must stay in bed and cannot exercise.”
Doctors are not sure what causes constipation but have pointed out that certain medical conditions and medications can contribute to the condition. In addition, holding off on making a bowel movement also can lead to constipation.Posted in Caregiving, Diet, Health | 3 Comments »
Tags: Caregiving, Health