Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario

Conducting a Bowel History

A bowel history includes the following:

  • A description of usual pattern of bowel movements (frequency, characteristics of stool, usual time for defecation).
  • Measures taken to have a bowel movement, inclusive of laxatives (type, amount used), and effectiveness of measures taken.
  • Client beliefs about bowel movements.
  • History of the problem of constipation (onset and pattern).
  • The ability to sense the urge to defecate.

For persons with cognitive impairment, information regarding the client’s behavioural manifestations of the need to have a bowel movement should be obtained from the client’s primary care provider.

Older Adults
Prevention of Constipation in the Older Adult Population
Point of Care Resources