There are two kind of stool softeners;
1) Bulk producing stool softeners; these are used for long-term precaution, treatment of constipation, or both.
a) Psyllium (Metamucil)
b) Methycellulose (Citrucel)
2) Laxative stool softener like Docusate which is for patients who should avoid straining during defecation (like people who have previous heart attack, have heart ailments or had stroke). It allows incorporation of water and fat into stools, causing stools to soften.
There are usually no other reasons for which the stool softeners are given, though these only should be used when other measures like following have not helped at all;
1) Increased fibers in diet.
2) Increased fluid intake.
The nursing homes instead of being patient for the slightest of complain of constipation may occasionally rush to the medicines before giving trial to the above measures, especially in the old people as they are thought to be constipated in general.
Please feel free for your follow up questions.
I would be happy to assist you further, if you need any more information.
Thanks for using Just Answer.