Apr 1, 2017

Dementia Care The Constipation Problem

What happens if a patient with Alzheimer's has constipation? What can you do?

dementia care

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

It not unusual for me to receive emails asking me how to deal with bowel movements and constipation in persons living with Alzheimer's and dementia.

Here is a good example of a recent email I received from our reader Julieta.


"What happens if a patient with Alzheimer's starts to have constipation. I know they some times forget, but how can we direct them or remind them they the need to go?

I do not mean to seat them on the toilet or give them laxative but a command , a word or something that awake them or remind them the need to do it? 
Thank you."

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As far as I know, there is no way to convince a dementia patient that it is time to go to the bathroom. I know from personal experience with my mom, Dotty, that it is pretty hard to explain just about anything and get them to cooperate.

Trying to reason with them, convince them, threaten them, or even cajole just doesn't work well. What you can do is become a guide. I'll suggest that everyone read or re-read this article.

I did have a big problem with my mom and constipation. It did take me a while to figure out what to do. I have been told by caregivers that the following article is very helpful.

Alzheimer's Care and the Dreaded Bowel Movement

Let's just say I tried everything under the sun until I finally solved the problem. Here is the good news, once I solved the problem with constipation it went away and never came back.

Now in direct response to Julieta. I don't recommend laxative pills. There are a long list of reasons; but most importantly, I prefer natural solutions to problems rather than added another pill or medication.

Here is how I solved the problem with the dreaded bowel movement.

When my mother woke up in the morning I would get her to drink about 3 ounces of prune juice. I actually bought a little 3 ounce glass for this purpose. It was not easy to get my mom to drink the prune juice, it took me a while to solve that problem and I describe the solution in the article referenced above.

I should add we started with prunes. Unlike the prune juice my mother willingly ate the prunes. Bad news - they didn't work. The juice works because in combination with coffee it works as a kind of diuretic.

So first the prune juice, and then a cup of coffee. For the most part this created the magic. After about 20 minutes my mother would say - I have to go. No cajoling, no blah blah blah, she was on the move to the bathroom. As time went on I had to giver her some assistance.

It is really amazing. This was a dreaded problem for years. It really stressed me out. Then like a magic potion my mother started telling me she had to go. I mean announced she had to go to the bathroom and went - mostly on her own.

If you are a caregiver then you are probably a lot like me. I never thought I could be so happy over another person's bowel movement. Mom would go, and I would be happy. I think she was pretty happy too.

Later on I started giving my mother a probiotic (Align). I did this because she was having a lot of urinary tract infections and was taking a lot of antibiotics. It seem to me that this also helped as part of the solution to the dreaded Poop-E problem.

When dealing with a really bad case of constipation you can also use Citrate of Magnesia. This stuff really works and does solve the problem. As I describe in the Dreaded Bowl Movement it also brings about a "volcanic' like explosion of yep - Poop-E. Read the article and you will find out what I mean.

If you decide to use the Citrate of Magnesia I suggest you put adult incontinence wear on your loved one (also known as a diaper). This was suggested to me after I experienced the dreaded Poop-E explosion for the first time. If only I had known or thought about this.

Along the way to solving the Poop-E problem I also turned it into some fun. I added The Poop-E and Prune Juice song. And had the assistance of the greatest caregivers assistance tool of them all - Harvey. Imagine Harvey singing the Poop-E song right along with me. Want to get the greatest caregiver assistant of them all? Go here to find and how and why.

Being a caregiver isn't easy. In dementia care every time we solve one problem - we get a new one. It is an never ending process. However, once you start to get the hang of problem solving in dementia care, you get better at it. Solving problems does bring with it a certain kind of fulfillment. Makes you feel good about yourself. At least, that is what happened with me.

There is almost always a solution. Oddly, sometimes it take a lot of trial and error to figure out how to solve the problem. I had eight and a half years, 3,112 days, to figure things out. After the first 550 days I started to get better and better at trying to figure out the problems. Plus, I met a lot of wonderful people that had answers. This is what the Alzheimer's Reading Room is all about.

Related Articles

Communicating in Alzheimer's World

How to Get a Dementia Patient to Cooperate

How to talk with someone who has dementia

Memory Care Facility

Did you know the Alzheimer's Reading Room contains more than 5,000 articles and has been published daily since July, 2009? The website is designed to help caregivers deal with the problems they face each day.

Need Help? Search Our Award Winning Knowledge Base for Answers to Your Questions About Alzheimer's and Dementia

Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room (ARR).

The Alzheimer's Reading Room contains more than 5,000 articles and has been published daily since July, 2009.
You are reading original content the Alzheimer's Reading Room

*** Taking probiotics while you are on an antibiotic treatment can help slow the growth of Candida by filling your gut with beneficial bacteria. Probiotics help maintain the balance in your gut, and as a result reduce the side effects of the antibiotics.

*** Magnesium citrate increases water in the intestines. Citrate of Magnesia is used as a laxative to treat occasional constipation.

*** Constipation is a common problem. Constipation usually means having problems going to the toilet; or, having a problem passing hard or painful stools (feces).

*** Dementia care is the art of looking after and providing for the needs of person living with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia.