Epidemiology of Constipation in Elderly Patients
Constipation is a common complaint among elderly people, resulting in large amounts of money being spent on laxatives. Strategies for improving patient care while reducing this expenditure include: (a) counselling patients that daily bowel movements and purging are not essential to good health, (b) greater use of non-pharmacological measures such as hydration, exercise and dietary fibre, and (c) considering safety, effectiveness and cost in the selection of a laxative. Generic preparations of psyllium and sorbitol can be recommended in this regard. The widespread use of stool softeners, magnesium hydroxide (‘milk of magnesia’) and stimulant laxatives is difficult to justify from the available data.