What are the Causes and Treatment of Constipation?


Constipation is a symptom that your care team takes very seriously. Changes in bowel function are common during illness. Many factors can lead to slowed bowel function and hard, infrequent stools. Don’t be embarrassed to talk to your care team about this problem – it can be treated.

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Causes of Constipation

  • Changes in diet – low fiber, lack of fluids
  • Medications
  • Decreased activity

If you are experiencing constipation or taking medications that can lead to constipation, your hospice care team will work with you to create a plan for you.

What You Can Do

  • Talk openly with your hospice nurse about any current or past problems with your bowels.
  • Tell your hospice nurse what has worked – and not worked – for you in the past.
  • Take stool softeners and/or laxatives as prescribed.
  • Keep track of the frequency of bowel movements and share that information with your hospice nurse.

Call Your Care Team If

  • Stool is hard and difficult to pass.
  • It has been 3 or more days since your last bowel movement.
  • Your abdomen is tender, painful, or distended.
  • Constipation is accompanied by nausea and/or vomiting.
  • There is dark blood in the stool.
  • The only stool is a small smear or liquid.

Establishing a Bowel Regimen

Your nurse may discuss creating a “bowel regimen”. A bowel regimen is a plan for preventing and managing constipation. Starting a plan, sticking to it, and evaluating it together will help you and your care team know what works well for you.

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