Constipation is a very common problem in older people. Because so many people with dementia are old, many of them also suffer in this way. As mentioned in the section on incontinence, severe constipation can actually cause a form of faecal incontinence and if severe enough it can, strangely, sometimes lead to incontinence of urine as well. Many people only empty their bowels every three or four days and if this has been their normal routine, there is no point in trying to persuade them to empty their bowels more frequently. If, however, as for most people, this has been a daily routine, it doesn't really matter if it becomes a little less frequent, such as every alternate day. This is particularly true if the person concerned is eating significantly less than he or she used to.

One of the best ways of keeping bowels functioning normally is to ensure that there is an adequate amount of roughage, or fibre in the diet. This helps the bowels to move the food along from one end of the alimentary tract to the other. A diet that is high in convenience foods, sweets, and cake is unlikely to contain an adequate amount of fibre. Wholemeal bread, cereals containing bran, and fresh fruit and vegetables are among the most palatable forms of fibre.

Some people have used purgatives all their lives and under these circumstances constipation can be very difficult to cure, adequate fibre intake on its own being insufficient to restore normal bowel function. If there is a problem, the doctor or the district nurse can usually assess its severity and recommend treatment.


General Health