Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Nursing Best Practice Guidelines

Background - Constipation in the Older Adults
  • Constipation is a frequent health concern for elderly persons and their care providers across the continuum of healthcare.
  • There is an increasing prevalence of constipation with age, particularly after age 70. Epidemiological data suggests that subjective reports of constipation and habitual laxative use increase with age.
  • It is estimated that anywhere from 30% to 50% of community-dwelling older persons use laxatives regularly and this use increases with institutionalization.
  • Lifestyle factors contributing to constipation include: inadequate levels of fluid intake and dietary fibre; prolonged and overuse of laxative agents; ignoring the defecation urge; sedentary lifestyle; and polypharmacy.

Please refer to the best practice guideline “Prevention of Constipation in the Older Adult Population” for a complete list of recommendations, including education and organization & policy recommendations.