What is the best way to help my mom with constipation?

2 answers | Last updated: Apr 16, 2015
A fellow caregiver asked...

What's the best way to help my mom with constipation? This seems to be causing her enormous pain. The doctor just recommends mineral oil, but my mom refuses to use it. Are enemas OK?


Expert Answers

Jennifer Serafin, N.P. is a registered nurse and geriatric nurse practitioner at the Jewish Homes for the Aged in San Francisco.

First, make sure your mom is drinking enough fluids. Many older women limit the amount of fluid they drink to avoid frequent urination or incontinence. Most clinicians recommend 6 to 8 cups of fluid daily. Coffee and other caffeinated beverages such as cola don't count. They are actually dehydrating. If fluids aren't an issue and your mom is drinking enough, I would next look at her diet. Is she eating enough fiber? Prunes can be helpful, if your mother likes them. Also, other fruits such as apples or pears. High fiber cereals or fiber juices such as prune or cherry juice can also be helpful. Lastly, I'd also look at her activity level. Many people become constipated because they sit around all day. Walks and other exercise can definitely help reduce constipation.

It’s also important to consider the medications your mom is taking. They may be constipating. Talk to her doctor or a pharmacist about this. While you’re at it, ask your mom’s doctor if laxatives are a good idea. Her doctor may have ideas on brands and dosages. There are two kinds of products commonly used, stool softeners and laxatives. Stool softeners aren't as strong as laxatives, so many people start with a softener to see if it will help. If your mom uses a laxative it's important to monitor her carefully. Laxatives are associated with diarreah and loose bowels. You can treat this by adjusting her dosage and diet, but should check with her doctor or an advice nurse first.

Community Answers

The caregiver's voice answered...

Add YOGURT to the suggestions offered such as fluids and fiber including juices, prunes, fruits, and cereal.