The hard word on constipation

It’s either a feast or a famine in our house!  Ma has always been prone to constipation.  (See my previous posts on the adventures of Ma’s bowels at To bodly go…When bowels go bad… and Bowel Movements…).  On her recent stay in hospital they ‘cleaned her out’, so much so, that we couldn’t halt the flow.  This of course led to us taking evasive action, under doctor supervision of course.

But after we stopped the flow, we had to start Ma going again.  This has not been easy!!  Over time, I’ve tried a variety of ways and means of keeping Ma regular.  High fibre foods, drinks and recipes.  Ma ’embraces’ the idea at the beginning but it’s not too long before there are complaints about nearly everything I give her.  What once was yum is now icky!  Consequently I eat/drink it to save it wasting (it’s the sustainability gene that I have).  Believe me my bowels don’t need any help whatsoever and the end results… well let us just say.. no let us not!

So, after the latest round of ‘not going’, I was very surprised to hear her say, “it might be better if I increased the fibre in my diet”.  Really?  So, this afternoon I made a batch of muesli and tomorrow I’ll make a GTT (Go to Toilet) cake.  For dinner I made Chilli which contained a tin of baked beans.  Last night I defrosted some of the GTT Christmas pudding which had the desired result.

As you get old your bowels become less efficient due to a variety of factors.  Among other factors, lack of exercise, medications (especially pain killers), not drinking enough and/or drinking the wrong types of fluids, not consuming enough fibre and not exercising enough can all affect our bowels. Emotions such as stress, worry and depression can also play a part.

Ma ticks many of those boxes!  Constipation can result in a variety of health issues including nausea, irritability, decreased appetite as well as some not well known consequences such as:

  • urinary incontinence (an over-full bowel can press on the bladder which leads to urinary frequency and urgency).  This effects Ma.  When she is constipated I need to change her pads more often and during the night we are up at least every two hours.
  • Urinary tract infections – from retention of urine or possibly from diarrhea as a result of trying to clear the bowel.
  • Confusion – Ma’s mental faculties definitely ‘go on holiday’ when she has constipation, she hallucinates and gets confused (see my post on Triggers).

Ma’s doctor told me that more often than not it’s a urinary tract infection or constipation that cause the most problems for the elderly.  There is a good little book by Ngaire Hobbins called ‘Eat to Cheat Ageing’ which has some good information about diet and exercise.  Ma can’t exercise due to her health issues although when she is very disorientated and hallucinating she can do several circuits around the house.

Tips:

  • The Continence Foundation of Australia is really helpful.  They came out to the house and came up with a plan to help Ma with her bowel problems.  The have some great resources on their website too.  This worked well until all her other health issues began which disturbed the regime we were in.
  • Increase your fibre – easier said then done!  I will put up some of the recipes I use to help Ma on her way.
  • Even with increasing fibre and liquid intake you may still need to incorporate a laxative.  Talk to your doctor about the right one for you.  There are three types of laxatives which include bulking agents, lubricant laxatives, and stimulant/irritant laxatives.
  • Don’t be shy about discussing bowel problems.  Everyone poos!  It is thought that constipation affects as much as 15% of the population.  So you’re not alone.
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