A number of callers to the Deseret News/ Intermountain Health Care Health Hotline Saturday wanted to know how they could get back to the good old "one a day."
Focused on addressing senior health-care issues, Saturday's call-in program received many questions about constipation, said geriatric nurse practitioner Mina Wayman. She assured them there are ways to get back to a regular schedule."Your bowels need to be exercised, just like any other muscle," physician Edwin Genebach told one caller. He said it's important to establish a consistent routine that your body can get used to: one consisting of adequate fluid intake, regular exercise and fiber.
If all else fails, people can resort to stool softeners or laxatives. But the natural way is always better, said Wayman. She recommends prunes or prune juice before pills or powders.
Proper nutrition plays a key role in healthy bowels, and healthy bodies in general, Genebach said. It's not always easy, though. With so many elderly people living at or below the poverty line, Genebach said malnourishment is widespread.
As a result, many elderly people may experience decreased appetite, a lack of energy and osteoporosis, in addition to constipation, Genebach said.
Another woman called seeking advice about her 74-year old mother, who had become despondent over health complications and injuries from a fall.
"This was a typical patient in geriatrics," Wayman said. "There are multiple health problems compounded by depression."
Wayman applauded the woman, who had purchased an art set for her mother to work on while she was up late at night. Art therapy, music therapy and even "reminiscence therapy," where elderly people become involved in family or personal history projects, are good tools to help relieve depression among the elderly, Wayman said.
For most elderly people, Wayman and Genebach agreed that a healthy diet combined with regular exercise (walking is one of the better options) and social involvement are keys to maintaining or improving most health conditions.
The health hotline is a free service of Deseret News and Intermountain Health Care.