Did you know that constipation affects up to 30% of the general adult population?

People with learning disabilities have an increased risk, with some studies reporting it being as high as 70%. There have been several serious case reviews where people with a learning disability have died due to or linked to constipation. 

Anyone supporting people with learning disabilities should be aware that they are at much higher risk of having constipation, as the individual may be unable to communicate this. Being aware of the signs and symptoms is essential. Behaviours displayed by people with a learning disability may be linked to constipation.

People with a learning disability are much more likely to be prescribed medication that is associated with constipation, such as antipsychotics, antidepressants and anticonvulsants, all of which can have a negative effect on bowel movement.

People with a more severe learning disability are at an even higher risk due to complex needs, including being non-ambulant, having a complex body shape and possible long term health conditions.

Finally, there are negative environmental issues in this population group including poor diet, fluids, and lack of exercise.

That is why our Promoting Access to Mainstream Health Services (PAMHS) teams supported by MDT colleagues from SLT, Community Nursing, OT and Physiotherapy from across the Learning Disability division have designed and developed a resource information pack on managing constipation. This pack is for people with learning disabilities, their families, their carers and professional healthcare workers.

The resource pack includes accessible, easy read information on ‘What is constipation’ ‘A quick guide to constipation’, ‘What are laxatives’, ‘How to get more fibre into your diet’ and ‘High fibre recipes’ and more, all of which you can download and share below. It also includes a screening tool and a care plan for health professionals or providers to use.

The team have also developed and included a carer’s information leaflet which can be used by professional carers or families to support the person with a learning disability. This includes recommending the use of bowel and diet charts - examples of these are included in the pack.

It has information on what other medications may cause constipation, and our recommendations to GPs on what needs to be included in an annual health check.

The pack encompasses the most recent guidance produced by Public Health England (PHE) ‘Making reasonable adjustments for people with learning disabilities in the management of constipation’ and further information published by the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) on ‘Bowel care – management of lower bowel dysfunction.’

We hope that by sharing these useful and lifesaving resources with people with learning disabilities, their carers and health professionals, we can reduce the risk of constipation within learning disability adults.

Download our managing constipation resources below:

If you would like more information on the above resources or have a query, please contact the PAMHS Team on 01922 658800.