Purpose: Constipation is a common complaint among geriatric patients and may result in significant morbidity, especially among nursing home residents. The prevalence of constipation increases with advancing age and may be a result of the aging process, but the exact cause is unknown. The aim of this study was to describe the prevalence of constipation and to determine risk factors for the development of constipation in a large population of nursing home residents.
Methods: The Minimum Data Set is an assessment instrument used in nearly all Medicare-certified and Medicaid-certified nursing facilities. Nursing home residents who were at least 65 years of age and who had assessments at baseline and at three months were included in the study (N = 21,012). Baseline risk factors were included in a multivariate logistic regression to determine their association with the development of constipation. To allow causal implications, nursing home residents with constipation at baseline were excluded. The variables examined included medications, mobility, comorbid illness, and nutrition.
Results: The mean age (+/- standard deviation) of nursing home residents was 83 +/- 8 years, and the population was 70 percent female and 83 percent white. At baseline, the prevalence of constipation was 12.5 percent (N = 2,627). By the three-month assessment, 7 percent (N = 1,291) of nursing home residents had developed constipation. The factors associated independently with the development of constipation were, in order of magnitude, race, decreased fluid intake, pneumonia, Parkinson's disease, and the presence of allergies. Congestive heart failure and the use of a feeding tube were two factors identified as having a protective effect.
Conclusion: The variables associated with the development of constipation may be used to identify geriatric nursing home residents at risk and to prevent constipation and its potential complications. Further study is needed to demonstrate a causal relationship between the risk factors and the development of constipation.