Constipation: assessment and management in an institutionalized elderly population.

UMMS Affiliation

Meyers Primary Care Institute; Department of Medicine, Division of Geriatric Medicine

Publication Date


Document Type



Aged; Aged, 80 and over; Cathartics; Constipation; Cross-Sectional Studies; Enema; Female; Humans; Institutionalization; Long-Term Care; Male; Nursing Homes


Health Services Research | Medicine and Health Sciences


OBJECTIVES: To examine prescribing and utilization patterns of laxatives, stool softeners, and enemas in a large, long-term care facility, to compare self-reports of constipation with specific, bowel-related symptoms in residents of this facility, and to examine concordance between bowel symptoms reported by residents and the assessments of the nursing staff. DESIGN: Cross-sectional study. SETTING AND SUBJECTS: All individuals residing in an academically oriented long-term care facility in the United States for at least 1 month (n = 694). MEASUREMENTS: Clinical, functional, and medication data were abstracted from the medical and nursing records. Individual interviews regarding bowel-related symptoms were conducted with all able participants (n = 456 (66%)) and their respective primary nurses, and concordance was determined. The study definition of symptom-specific constipation was no more than 2 bowel movements per week and/or straining on more than 1 in 4 bowel movements. RESULTS: Fifty percent (n = 367) of all residents used at least 1 daily laxative, stool softener or enema during a 1-month study period. Over half of all laxative users (n = 200) took more than 60 doses per month. Stool softeners were most commonly prescribed, followed by saline laxatives, stimulant laxatives, hyperosmolar laxatives, and bulk laxatives. Forty-seven percent (n = 213) of the 456 interview responders reported constipation ("self-reporters"), but only 62% of self-reporters met the study criteria for symptom-specific constipation. Concordance between resident's and nurse's report regarding specific bowel symptoms was only fair to slight (kappa 0.12-0.38). Self-reporters of constipation took almost twice as many laxatives, stool softeners, and enemas as residents who did not report constipation.


J Am Geriatr Soc. 1994 Sep;42(9):947-52.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of the American Geriatrics Society

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Link to article in PubMed

PubMed ID