5 Ways To Make Visits To The Bathroom Safer For People Living With Dementia


You and I take finding the toilet for granted, and yet we’ve all experienced the stress and anxiety of needing to go to the toilet and not being able to locate one.

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Imagine how this would feel if you were living with Dementia – disorientation and bewilderment could be a common experience for you, and you could feel very distressed and frightened. Frustrations can be multiplied many times over with raised agitation, anxiety, stress and depression all adding to the problem.

The reasons people living with dementia can experience difficulties with using the toilet, in some cases, is because of a medical condition such as a urinary tract infection, constipation caused by a poor diet or dehydration and side effects from certain medications to name but a few. But, in other situations, it could be that they are not able to find, recognise, or use the toilet.

A bathroom in which everything is the same colour and is sterile in appearance can have a detrimental effect on wayfinding.

The good news is that bathroom accidents can be minimalised and the environment can be made safer, more supportive and enabling with quite simple additions.

The primary consideration when adapting a bathroom environment for a person with dementia should be the safety for the individual. For example, sharp edges and the use of reflective material, glass or mirrors should be avoided. The risk of slips on wet and slippery surfaces and injuries due to the limited space should also be taken into consideration.

The first step is to make sure that what is important is highly visible using high contrasting colours – there must be enough light and colour contrast to enable people with Dementia to clearly see what they need as a reminder, so that important features such as the toilet stand out.

Hcsuk uses the latest research findings to present dementia-friendly product solutions which help with day-to-day living. Using coloured grab rails, surround frames and raised toilet seats can all help you to adapt your existing bathroom area and minimise falls. Our solutions are all about using highly visible and high contrast colour to establish a clear route to the toilet. Once there, to use the same principles to ‘decipher’ that environment by making the important things, grab rails and the toilet itself, easier to see. This will boost loved one’s confidence and independence, and reduces falls, as well as helping to maintain or restore dignity.

1. Is Finding Their Way To The Toilet A Challenge?

A door that is a different colour to other doors, using self-adhesive door coverings can be used to highlight the door area which can help a person with dementia to identify the location of the toilet more easily.

door covers and toilet signs

Used alongside appropriate signage, finding the way to the toilet can be made a lot easier.

2. Does Your Loved One Sometimes Slip Or Fall When Trying To Sit On The Toilet?

Using a contrasting coloured toilet seat can help people living with Dementia to distinguish the toilet from its surroundings, as well as making it more visible and easier to identify. It can also help with positioning resulting in fewer embarrassing accidents and falls.

Toilet seat

Additional features such as soft close hinges will prevent the seat from slamming shut and creating a loud noise, which can be startling.

3. Does Your Loved One With Dementia Require Extra Stability When Accessing The Toilet And/Or Lowering Themselves On Or Off The Toilet Seat?

There are many solutions that can help to reduce the risk of falls. For example, our brightly coloured grab rails are a simple but effective solution for reducing falls in the bathroom.

Rainbow grabrail and toilet roll holder grabrail

Dropdown support bars can provide more assistance than a grab rail when fitted close to the toilet for a person to lean on when sitting and standing. They can also be conveniently folded away.

dropdown support bars

Toilet frames can be adjusted to fit around most toilet pans. They are lightweight, portable and as they are free-standing, can be easily removed when not in use.

Toilet frames

4. Is Getting Up From The Toilet A Struggle?

Due to ageing and/or mobility problems a person may find it more difficult to rise from a low position, i.e. a chair or the toilet.

Raised toilet seat

Using a colour contrasting raised toilet seat increases the height of the toilet, which may enable someone to rise more easily.

5. Does Your Loved One Get Distressed When Looking In The Mirror?

A person with dementia may not recognise themselves as they look now, instead remembering a younger version of themselves, so if they catch sight of their reflection in a mirror, they may become scared or upset because they think there is someone else in the bathroom with them. Using a reversible mirror can help to avoid this.

reversible mirrors

A Few Other Helpful Tips

Lighting that creates shadows can cause distress in people with dementia. However, if it is cleverly positioned above the sink or toilet, it can draw attention to these areas, helping residents to find them more easily.

Every individual with dementia will have different needs and will respond to both the environment and to people around them in different ways. It is important to keep in mind what is important to them, including their strengths, their current needs and how they relate to the environment.

By implementing at least some of the changes discussed, you will not only help enable a person with dementia to carry out their daily living activities without distress, embarrassment or a reluctance to use the bathroom, but you will also reduce healthcare-related costs, which include money spent on additional laundry and incontinence products and additional time required to help a person use the bathroom.

For more advice on helping enable people living with Dementia to live more fulfilled lives please visit our Living Well with Dementia section of our website or book your Dementia Environmental Audit today by calling 01773 713713 or emailing belinda@hcsuk.co.uk.

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I spoke to Lee Atterbury 2 weeks ago, when I was despairing about the prospect of finding any equipment to help my husband in the bathroom. I had tried all the popular brands, but none were right for his needs.

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Christine G, Sheffield

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