Can dementia disrupt your bowels?

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My mother is 87 years old and she's had dementia for a couple of years now. She has the usual symptoms: memory loss, agitation, mania, distrust/paranoia, and violence. She's been diagnosed with UTI (urinary tract infection) before and took antibiotics. Lately, she is going through some severe constipation. She takes Miralax, which helps a little bit. The problem is she keeps getting the sensation that she needs to move her bowels, every 5 minutes! On one single day, she would go to the bathroom more than 50 times in a row, only a couple of times did she see some actual stool. By the way, she has to use her finger to manually evacuate (also known as digital assistance). Could her dementia be disrupting her bowel movement signals and causing her to think she needs to go? The brain can really play tricks on you!

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I finally was able to take my mom to see her doctor. We almost didn't go because she was giving me the excuse that she didn't have the energy and the will power to go out. So I asked her if she would like to wait and suffer for another one or two months for the next appointment or she can just power through for a couple of hours and find out how to resolve her bowel issues. She argued for a bit and then agreed to go with me. Luckily, she has a really nice and thoughtful doctor. I told him what happened for the last couple of weeks. He checked her rectum and decided that she didn't have fecal impact or any blood. He did not insist on her continuing taking the Miralax but suggested that Dulcolax suppositories might help. Lo and behold, as soon as we went back and tried the suppositories, all the stool that she has been trying to void all day has now come out. For the next hour or two, mom has not gone to the bathroom. I thought that was it until two hours later, she said she has to go move her bowels. I was so relieved before and now my relief has disappeared. For the next two hours, she kept going to the bathroom, saying she felt something was inside ready to come out. But there was nothing she could evacuate. I think her brain has been wrongly trained to tell her to go even though there is nothing. We'll see if this continues if though we now have a way to empty out the rectum,
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Llamalover47 Aug 9, 2018
Jigsaw: Good news indeed!
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JIGSAW- the Nurses and Nurse practitioners are with Hospice and with her Primary Dr who is a geriatrician who comes to the house. No facility- and I hear ya on the 20 times a day thing, as in its ONLY 20 times now. I almost laughed- its almost funny except when you are doing the back and forth thing ALLLLLLL day. Its nice (in a weird way) to know Im not the only one doing this. Some days I think a facility would be a treat, but we are at the tail end of things and I am trying my darndest to make it through with her to the end.
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I was reading Susiemen's through explanation of what may be happening and it reminded me for everyone, constipated or not, problems going at all or not, a stool or something to put their feet on (and yours) can be very helpful. Growing up we always had a stool in the bathroom, so did my great grandmother and my grandmother in every bathroom of their houses, I always thought it was because we (the women in the family anyway) had short legs and maybe that's true but besides giving your feet something to touch it put's your body in a better position for voiding and helps your bowels do their job without as much strain. Think about it or try it, the position also shortens the amount of area the stool has to travel, gives a straight shot to the toilet bowel below and gives you better leverage for bearing down if need be. Yes I gave seen the Squatty Potty, brilliant the way it tucks in against the toilet but the basic idea has lived in our family well before I came along so long before Squatty Potty was ever thought of. I have thought about getting one but to tell the truth the stools come in handy for other things as well and I have 2 that came from my GG so they hold sentimental value too.
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Jigsaw: That is a fine balancing act. My late mother had the same problem--too much Miralax and then she was afraid and would never take it again!
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Thank you all for your input, advice, and comments. I really appreciate it. So, a couple of days ago, she had diarrhea, all night long. She must have taken a little too much Miralax. The constant explosion was just unbearable. I would think that fecal impact might not be what she was having. Now, she is not as obsessed as before. In fact, whenever she feels the need to go, there would be some stool for her to extract. The signal to the brain seems to be reversed, where soft stool would leak out without her knowledge and it would be 5 or 10 minutes later that she realizes she has to go and then she would see the leakage on her panties. I am reluctant to give her laxatives or stool softener as she seems to be moving her bowels now, just a little delayed. I am taking her to see her doctor later this week and we'll see what the doctor has to say. Thank you all again for your responses.
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Anniepeepie Aug 1, 2018
little FYI. we are also dealing with the blockage which is followed by BOOM all of that diarrhea later in the day.
Might want to research that a little. Hospice recommended Senna or Senokot for mother. which is supposed to be really good. Starting tonight. Will let you know/
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JigSaw- my mother is 88. I could have written your post. It has gotten so bad that night times are just as bad as day with this back and forth to the toilet. even on a sleeping pill. I wonder if it is part mental /dementia as in maybe a fear of there is more that needs to come out etc. as well as the sensation of having to go-
Only things helping me currently:
A. Knowing what causes loose stools for her - such as those greasy Ensure supplements- then I give her one when she is having a particular difficult day
and B.) a daily stool softener to make it easier to pass
I tend to get upset with this whole using the hand and fingers business because of the UTI problems it causes
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GAinPA Aug 1, 2018
Does she use a glove or finger cot? I keep an open box right in front of the toilet.
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Yes, absolutely! The patient's mind is broken and therefore not sending the signal to the brain that "it's time to go to the toilet for #2."
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Mpost definitely! That UTI will never go away at her age due to her hygiene. What is she eating?
I never say my Mother eat chocolate like she does now. She hoards it when possible. She may be eating things that she could be hoarding.
Talk to her doctor about what she's doing to get her bowel to empty....not a good thing, she could damage herself as well as she most likely is not washing her hands well!!
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tlhanger Aug 3, 2018
If they treat the UTI, we use to break that pill up by putting in a plastic bag and use a rolling pin and then put it in peach yogurt, usually 2 teaspoons or so and she would take it.
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Please have a doctor examine her for a fecal impact, as it sounds as if she may have this. It often occurs after one has been severely constipated for more than 2 days. A fecal impact is when a hard, dry mass of stool becomes stuck in the colon, and the person is unable to pass it or extract it on their own. They often must resort to manually extracting the mass of stool (that is, removing the stool with their fingers). This does not tend to solve the problem, however, as the entire mass of stool can not be extracted manually by hand.

The person has to ingest heavy, greasy foods to help the stool absorb grease and moisture, and to extracted from the body more naturally. Greasy Chinese chow mein or Chinese food (not Chinese fried rice) often helps quite a great deal, as does soda, such as Sprite or Pepsi (for some reason). Contrary to what one may think, drinking a lot of water, eating fruits and vegetables, or eating beans will not help a fecal impact. The body needs heavy grease and soda to help extract this stool, not natural solutions.
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jacobsonbob Jul 30, 2018
Hi kkpost19--That's true that such foods won't relieve a fecal compaction once it has occurred, but they help to prevent it from happening in the first place.
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My husband has fronto-temporal dementia and can no longer tell whether he truly needs to urinate or not.
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