Elderly people commonly experience constipation (12)

The prevalence of constipation increases the older one gets, especially for those over the age of 65. (13, 14) Constipation affects 50 % of elderly living in community dwellings and 74 % of those in nursing-homes. (12, 13)

Even healthy elderly people already have a reduced quality of life (QOL) because of their reduced physical well-being, and constipation further reduces this QOL. (2)

Common causes of constipation in the elderly (3, 12-15)

  • Medications like painkillers, antidepressants, antacids and calcium supplements can all affect smooth muscle function in the colon
  • Diseases like diabetes mellitus, thyroid disease or chronic renal disease
  • Neurologic disorders, e.g. Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, cerebrovascular disease and stroke, spinal cord lesions and dementia
  • Myopathic disorders, e.g. Amyloidosis and Scleroderma
  • Other factors that also lead to constipation in the elderly include:
  • Depression
  • Immobility, disability or poor mobility leading to a lack of physical activity
  • Poor diet – it is common that elderly people drink less fluid (because of a decreased thirst sensation), but they also eat fewer meals and sometimes follow a diet low in fibre

Treating constipation in the elderly

Frequent straining and the feeling of anal blockage are commonly reported in the elderly. (13) Constipation is not life-threatening and can be easily managed with simple lifestyle changes: (3, 13, 14)

  • Increase in activity
  • Monitored fluid intake to prevent dehydration
  • Change in diet by increasing fibre intake (20-35 g per day) and including fresh fruit and vegetables to the diet
  • Not ignoring the urge to have a bowel movement
  • Taking the time to have a bowel movement at the same time every day
  • Taking a senna-fibre laxative like Agiolax®

Agiolax® can be used in the elderly (12, 13, 15)

Agiolax® is a bulk-forming laxative that is considered safe and more efficient than lactulose. (13,15) It improves stool consistency, frequency and makes bowel movement easier. (12)