, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 136-139
Date: 30 Apr 2009

Use of fiber instead of laxative treatment in a geriatric hospital to improve the wellbeing of seniors

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Abstract

Introduction

Constipation is a common problem in the elderly population, especially in geriatric wards. Laxatives are the most preferred solution but current studies link constipation and laxative use to weight-loss and malnutrition in nursing homes. Dietary fibers also affect stool weight and transit time. So, oat-bran effectiveness in reducing the need for bowel medication and weight-loss for geriatric care patients was examined in a geriatric hospital.

Aim

To determine whether the addition of oat-bran to common oral diet can reduce the use of laxatives and improve the wellbeing and bodyweight of the inhabitants of a long-term-care facility.

Methods

The study was designed as a controlled blind intervention trial among 30 frail inhabitants of a geriatric hospital aged 57–100 years with laxative use. Including criteria were: oral food intake and laxatives as therapy and excluding criteria were: parenteral and enteral feeding, surgeries in the gastro- intestinal tract, drugs that shorten or lengthen the passage through the gut, risk of aspiration, swallowing troubles. An intervention and a control group were formed. 15 of them received 7–8g oat-bran/d for 12 weeks (fiber group) mixed up in the daily common diet of the ward and 15 served as control (control group). Data collection: Bodyweight was taken at baseline, after 6 weeks and at the end of the supplementation. Data on laxative use, stool frequency and the eating habits of the elderly were recorded.

Results

Laxatives were successfully discontinued by 59% (p<0.001) in the fiber-group; in the control-group there was an increase of 8% (p=0,218). Bodyweight remained constant in the fiber-group and decreased in the control-group (p=0,002). The oat-fiber supplementation in the introduced form was well tolerated.

Conclusions

Use of oat-fiber allowed discontinuation of laxatives by 59% while improving body-weight and wellbeing of the seniors. Fiber supplementation is a safe and convenient alternative to laxatives in a geriatric hospital.