Constipation and the Elderly
For the CDPAP caregiver, nothing is more frustrating than seeing your patient suffer. Fortunately, constipation is a manageable condition to diagnose. However, to learn more about what this entails and how you can manage it in order for your body’s natural processes of waste removal (known as ” stool”) to work appropriately with minimal intervention from doctors or caretakers who may not know much when they hear that there could be something wrong.
What is constipation?
Constipation is a condition that affects the large intestine, which can lead to difficulty passing stool. There are many symptoms of constipation, and it’s essential for people who experience them (or think they might) to seek medical attention because there could be other serious issues such as an inflamed gut or obstruction from blockages in your pipes.
In addition, spinal stenosis poses risks associated with having fewer than three bowel movements each week–even though this isn’t considered “constant,” pain may still be a sign that something is wrong.
When it comes to bowel movements, there is no one-size-fits-all definition. In fact, some people don’t have a daily habit but are still not considered constipated if that’s what works for them!
However, many experts agree that having three or fewer stools per week can indicate an issue with your digestive system and should be checked out by your doctor anyway. Of course, there may also be other factors at play here like dehydration from excessive stress/lack of exercise, pregnancy hormones changing blood flow through our bodies, etc…
What causes constipation?
Depending on the individual, many different things can cause someone to become constipated. For example, people who don’t eat enough fiber or drink enough water are more likely to experience constipation because these things help keep stool soft and easy to pass. Other causes of constipation include:
- Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
- Medications such as painkillers, antacids, and antidepressants
- Overuse of laxatives
- Neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease
- Certain surgeries
Psychological problems, such as tension or worry, can also induce constipation, which can lead to changes in hormone levels that affect digestion.
What are the symptoms of constipation?
There are a few different symptoms that may indicate you are constipated. These include:
- Having fewer than three bowel movements per week
- Straining to have a bowel movement
- Feeling like you can’t completely empty your bowels
- hard or lumpy stool
- abdominal pain or bloating
If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor so they can rule out other possible causes and help you find the best treatment plan.
The three types of constipation are normal transit, slow transit, and pelvic floor disorders.The elderly person may have any type, but doctors or caretakers need to understand what kind they’re dealing with to address the root cause accordingly.
Normal transit constipation is when stool moves through the intestines at a slower pace than what’s considered normal, but there are no blockages or other issues causing problems. Slow-transit constipation is when the intestine muscles don’t work correctly to push stool along, and pelvic floor disorders happen when the muscles that control bowel movements are weak or damaged.
Medications that cause constipation
Many medicines have adverse effects, so it’s critical to discuss what is considered a “natural reaction.” For example, some of the drugs known can cause constipation in some patients include:
- Anticholinergics, including antihistamines
- medications for an overactive bladder or muscle relaxants (such as used during surgery)
- caffeine consumption
- Even just one cup per day is linked with an increased risk factor for developing symptoms requiring laxatives. These ingredients block acetylcholine which helps control nerve signals sent out by your brain cells, telling you when it’s time to go #2!
- Opiate painkillers such as codeine or Oxycontin
- Iron supplements
- Some calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure
- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) for depression
How is constipation treated?
The treatment for constipation will depend on the underlying cause. For example, if you’re constipated because you’re not eating enough fiber, your doctor may recommend increasing your intake of high-fiber foods or taking a fiber supplement.
If dehydration is the cause, they may advise you to drink more fluids. And if stress is triggering your constipation, they may suggest relaxation techniques or counseling.
Treatment plans will vary depending on the severity and root cause of your constipation. For example, suppose you are constipated because you’re not eating enough fiber. In that case, your doctor may recommend making some dietary changes, such as increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
They may also suggest drinking more fluids such as water or juice. If your constipation is caused by a medication you’re taking, your doctor may adjust the dosage or switch you to a different drug altogether.
In more severe cases, laxatives or enemas may be recommended. Surgery is only considered in extreme situations.
In some cases, medication may be necessary to treat constipation. These medications include over-the-counter laxatives as well as prescription medications.
Talking to your doctor before taking any laxatives is essential, as they can cause dependency and other side effects.
Constipation is a common issue that a variety of factors can cause. If you’re experiencing symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor so they can rule out other possible causes and help you find the best treatment plan.