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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.

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Why is chronic constipation in seniors common?

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

  1. Side effects from medications like opiates for pain (Percocet, Oxycontin, Norco), antidepressants, anticonvulsants, and antihistamines

  2. Medical conditions like strictures, tumors, Parkinson’s disease, or low thyroid

  3. 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:

  1. Few bowel movements

  2. Trouble having a bowel movement (straining)

  3. Small or hard stools

  4. Feeling like everything didn’t come out

  5. Swollen abdomen or abdominal pain

  6. 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:

  1. White rice and other refined grains

  2. Unripe bananas

  3. Tea

  4. Cheese

  5. Chocolate

2. Regularly eat (and drink) foods like:

  1. Beans

  2. Whole grains, especially bran

  3. Vegetables

  4. Fresh and dried fruit

  5. Nuts

  6. High-fiber foods

  7. 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.

Advertisement 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.

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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.

 


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