When Bowels go Bad… very BAD

Ma used to be very anal (excuse the pun) about her bowel movements.  If she didn’t go for two days she’d hit the panic button and would start taking ‘opening’ medicine.  After advice from the Continence Foundation of Australia we managed to get into a routine that kept Ma ‘moving’ (sorry) with the use of Movicol and Coloxyl with Senna (this worked for Ma, you need to find out what works best through expert advice).

After Ma’s last bowel accident (check out Bowel Movements, We have THEM!) she was reluctant to take any form of ‘opening’ medicine.  Unfortunately this led to her becoming constipated after four days without a bowel movement.  I was able to convince her to take a Movicol over a couple of days and then we resorted to Actilax (usually our last line of defence)…

And then the grand re-opening occurred.  No accidents, thank goodness but a constant to and fro to the toilet for a few hours which wore her out and caused her delirium to worsen.

The only other time she was badly constipated led to a horrendous experience with her suffering extreme faecal incontinence that smelt so bad it was like she was  rotting from the inside out.  She was so exhausted in going back and forth to the toilet that she wasn’t capable of going to the toilet anymore.  In the end I put a large nappy on her and she fell asleep with exhaustion.  I had to burn incense to get rid of the stench (I’m afraid I have a real ‘graveyard’ humour, it’s the only way we cope in these situations).  I found out later that a lot of old people that suffer this way often have falls in the toilet due to their weakness after such extreme episodes.

A normal bowel habit can be anywhere from 3 times a day to 3 times a week.  What is ‘regular’ can vary from person to person.  I will now be ensuring that Ma gets back into a good bowel habit.  As she had been so unexpectedly regular over the past couple of weeks we had dropped her routine Movicol on every second day.  Ma has a number of conditions that cause constipation including her fluid intake and fibre intake, lack of exercise (she is on a walker), and the medications she takes.


  • Get to know your loved ones bowel habits.  I can usually tell when Ma’s constipated as she gets as cranky as a bag full of cats.  Get advice on how to treat constipation and make sure you keep recommended medicines on hand.
  • As I’ve said before, wet ones and disinfectant wipes are your best friends!
  • Try to have a conversation about their bowel habits.  It’s an uncomfortable subject for a number of people, but if they become comfortable discussing their bowel habits it’s half the battle.
  • The Continence Foundation of Australia provides advice on bowel and bladder problems. 
  • Carry supplies for bowel and bladder accidents with you on outings.  A change of clothes, continence product, wet wipes and disinfectant wipes, and a couple of plastic bags may never be needed, but if they do, you can lessen their distress.
  • If you are worried, seek medical advice.

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