Chronic constipation is “under-estimated, under-treated and overlooked” according to a new report by a group of experts.
The condition affects 80% of people living in care homes and one in five adults over 65 living in the community.
By analysing evidence from across Europe, the researchers noted an absence of preventative strategies for the condition.
The pan-European group claim that learning how to effectively prevent and treat the condition should be a priority for all health and social care professionals working with older people.
According to the group, chronic constipation should be less of a taboo subject so that older people feel less embarrassed about self-reporting, knowing they will be taken seriously.
Assistant director of policy and communications at aging think tank the International Longevity Centre, David Sinclair said: “Despite estimated figures of 80% of care home residents suffering from constipation, this is a problem in older adults that is clearly not being taken seriously enough.
“We hope this report will provide a lever to improve earlier recognition of constipation and, importantly, to encourage all those involved in the care of older adults to take the positive and immediate steps outlined in this report that will lead to improved care.”
Professor Enrico Corazziari, Professor of Gastroenterology at La Sapienza University in Rome, said: “Constipation can be a source of real mental and physical distress for older adults. The lack of evidence-based guidance on the management of constipation in older adults across Europe means that management is sub-optimal; patients are suffering unnecessary ill-health and failing to receive appropriate or timely treatment.”
If left untreated, constipation can cause serious medical consequences such as faecal impaction, a condition where retention of solid faeces prevents normal evacuation.
Faecal impaction can affect up to 50% of older adults in hospital wards or care homes and can lead to faecal incontinence.