Constipation is one of the most common problems patients experience at the end of life.  Whether we eat or not, our body still produces waste and that waste needs to be eliminated.  As the disease progresses, our body movements slow down.  Inactivity can contribute to constipation.  Pain medicine also slows our bodily functions.  Anyone who is taking pain meds needs to be on a regular bowel program including stool softeners and/or laxatives.

The nurse will assess the need for a bowel program, determine what type of stool softener or laxative is needed, and instruct you on how they should be taken.   If the patient is able to swallow and can tolerate fluids, encourage him/her to drink.  If eating, encourage high fiber foods such as bran cereal, grains, vegetables, dried fruits, and nuts.

If there is no bowel movement every 3-4 days, or you notice loose, watery stools, contact your nurse.  Do not wait until constipation becomes a problem.  Your close monitoring will be very important to the patient’s comfort.  Keeping a log of when bowel movements occur is helpful.