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Dementia – Making the Bathroom Safe

Aug 18, 2017 by Toni Reinhart

I’ve written tips about bathing someone with dementia. But, the reality is, 1 in 7 persons with dementia lives alone, especially in the early stages of dementia. Most of us are aware, even if we aren’t in the elder care industry, that bathrooms can be a dangerous place for the elderly. Recently, both my father and my friend’s mother fell in the bathroom. One time, my mother-in-law turned on the faucet to run a bath and forgot about it. Her son found out when water started running into the basement below.

I’m sure everyone has at least one story of a bathroom mishap. So, here’s some things we can do to help make the bathroom safer.

Dementia Care Plan for Bathrooms

Slippery Surfaces

  • Make sure you have non-slip surfaces in the tub and shower enclosure and on the floor. However, if you are adding non-slip bath mats or using non-slip tape, make sure it is the same color as the floor and tub, someone with dementia could see the difference in color as a step and try to avoid stepping on it, creating an even greater fall risk.
  • If the bathroom has shiny tile, consider replacing the tile or covering it up with carpet. I know carpet is a big design “no-no”, but you can have it replaced later. The safety of your loved one should take precedence over design considerations here.
  • Install grab rails. Luckily, these days grab rails are coming in designs that are much more pleasing and don’t look “institutional”. Make sure these are professionally installed, they won’t help if they come out of the wall when your loved one grabs on to them for support.

Toilets

  • Newer toilets come in “comfort height”, if it’s not practical to replace the toilet, install a raised toilet seat.
  • Install a toilet seat that is a different color from the toilet. This will help the person with dementia spot the toilet. Visual and spatial confusion is a major contributor to problems in the bathroom for people with dementia.
  • If you are replacing the toilet with a newer model, avoid the models that use the buttons to flush. They are confusing to seniors with dementia that have grown up knowing that you push down on the handle.

Lighting

  • Make sure the bathroom is well-lit. Install night-lights so they can easily find the way to the bathroom at night.
  • Make sure the switches for the lights are easy to find. Make the switch plate a different color from the wall to make it easy to spot.

Water

  • Adjust the thermostat so the water temperature won’t exceed 120 degrees.
  • You can get a Shower Manager that will automatically reduce the flow of water after a set time to reduce the likelihood of flooding.
  • Remove small appliances like hairdryers and electric razors from the bathroom, these are hazards around water.

Look around the bathroom and see where you can make it safer. Is there too much clutter in the bathroom? Time to organize and simplify. Keep the decorations and non-essentials out of the bathroom for now.

Does the bathroom have a vanity with hard or sharp edges? Maybe you can replace it with a softer surface or something with rounded edges.

These tips are for someone with early stage dementia that is still able to perform most personal care tasks by themselves. Although the tips are good for anyone with dementia or other cognitive impairment, someone with advanced dementia should never, ever be left alone in the bathroom.

We’re here to help 24/7. Give us a call at (703) 424-9519, or stop by at 459 Herndon Pkwy #5, Herndon, VA 20170.

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