Focus on Oral Constipation Treatments for Older Adults
By Carrie Allen
In older adults, constipation – including chronic constipation – can be caused by immobility and age-related changes in the intestinal tract. Medications can exacerbate these issues and increase the risk of constipation for older adults, especially when they take opioids or multiple medications daily.
Given these facts, it is not surprising that the prevalence of constipation in long-term care facilities has been estimated to be as high as 80%. In addition to being uncomfortable, constipation that is not adequately treated can result in fecal impaction, which can lead to serious complications such as loss of blood flow to the bowels, intestinal perforation,
ulceration, bleeding, and anemia.
We can help our residents by becoming aware of medications that can cause constipation (Table 1), constipation treatments that are ineffective or may cause harm in older adults (Table 2), and common medications that can effectively treat constipation (Table 3).