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5 Tips for Helping a Senior Loved One with Chronic Constipation

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Constipation can cause problems for people of all ages. However, it can be especially risky for older adults. Chronic constipation can lead to severe abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Here are five ways to help your elderly loved one overcome chronic constipation.

1. Promote Exercise

As people age, bowel peristalsis can become sluggish. Exercise promotes peristalsis to facilitate effective elimination. When colon contractions slow as a result of the aging process or medication side effects, constipation may develop. If your senior loved one is unable to engage in vigorous aerobic exercise, simply taking a leisurely walk can enhance bowel function and reverse chronic constipation. While walking can establish a healthy pattern of elimination, check with the physician before encouraging your loved one to engage in a new exercise or walking routine. 

If you usually help your loved one exercise but need a break now and then, consider having a professional caregiver take over for you. Palm Beach respite care professionals can assist seniors with a wide array of daily tasks, offering family caregivers the chance to focus on other personal responsibilities or take a break to prevent burnout. Whether it’s for a few hours a day or a few days a week, respite care is the perfect solution for family caregivers who are feeling overwhelmed.

2. Encourage Drinking Plenty of Fluids

If your loved one is chronically dehydrated, he or she may experience frequent constipation. Offer water throughout the day because it promotes peristalsis and softens the stool so it’s easier to pass. If your loved one is on a fluid-restricted diet because of congestive heart failure or another health condition, ask the doctor how much water your loved one is allowed to drink on a daily basis.

3. Monitor Medication Side Effects

Certain medications can slow the contractions of the bowel. If your loved one takes prescription pain medications, psychotropic medications, antihistamines, or medications used to treat diarrhea, chronic constipation may develop. To alleviate drug-related constipation, make sure your loved one drinks plenty of water. If extra hydration fails to bring relief, talk to the physician about lowering the dosage of the offending medication and, if necessary, discontinuing it and prescribing a different drug that’s less likely to lead to constipation.

4. Offer Fruits and Vegetables

If your loved one has difficulty passing hard stool or is afraid to have a bowel movement because doing so is painful, consuming more fruits and vegetables may help. The water and fiber content in fruits and vegetables can soften the stool so it’s easier to pass, reducing the risk for chronic constipation and bowel obstruction from impacted stool. 

If your loved one needs help adopting and maintaining a diet that prevents constipation, consider enlisting the help of a professional caregiver. When considering at-home care, Palm Beach, FL, families should make sure their senior loved ones have the resources they need to maintain their independence and remain healthy. Trusted in-home care professionals can assist seniors with daily tasks like cooking, bathing, and exercise, and they can also encourage them to focus on healthier lifestyle habits.

5. Include More Fiber

Many seniors don’t consume enough fiber and are at risk for developing chronic constipation. Consuming a fiber-rich diet can bulk up the stool and facilitate an optimal pattern of elimination. If your loved one becomes bloated or experiences abdominal pain from eating fiber, his or her doctor can recommend a mild stool softener or laxative to promote bowel movements or a constipation medication that’s gentle on the gastrointestinal system so your loved one doesn’t experience painful cramping that may occur as a side effect of harsh laxatives.

Some aging adults may need help making lifestyle adjustments that keep their digestive systems healthy. In Palm Beach, elderly home care agencies can be a great boon to seniors. With the help of the caregivers at Home Care Assistance, your aging loved one can lead a happier and healthier life. We offer a revolutionary program called the Balanced Care Method, which encourages seniors to eat nutritious foods, exercise and socialize regularly, and focus on other lifestyle factors that increase life expectancy. For more information about our flexible, customizable home care plans, call one of our compassionate Care Managers today at 561.429.8292.