Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

Prevention of Constipation in the Older Adult Population

Project / Initiative: 
Long-Term Care Best Practices Program
Type of Guideline: 
Publish Date: 
About this Guideline:

The purpose of this guideline is to reduce the frequency and severity of constipation among older adults through the use of adequate hydration and dietary fibre, regular consistent toileting and physical activity. Achieving and maintaining a pattern of normal bowel elimination will prevent constipation, decrease the use of laxatives, and improve the quality of life for older adults.

This guideline has relevance in all areas of clinical practice, including acute care, community care and long-term care. However, the recommendations should be implemented cautiously with clients who drink less than 1.5 litres of fluid a day, or for those with a neurogenic bowel disorder (lower motor neuron disease). It does not apply to those clients with medical conditions for whom a restricted fluid intake is prescribed, nor for those who receive enteral feedings, nor for those who are palliative or receiving narcotic analgesics. It is important to address the need for treatment of acute constipation and fecal impaction before implementing this guideline.

This best practice guideline contains recommendations for Registered Nurses (RNs) and Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs). It is acknowledged that effective client care depends on a coordinated interdisciplinary approach incorporating ongoing communication between health professionals and clients, ever mindful of the personal preferences and unique needs of each individual client.

Published: 2005
Supplement: 2005
Revised: 2011

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