Bathroom and toilet

This Help Sheet suggests some ways to make the bathroom and toilet as useful and safe as possible for a person with dementia, their family and carers. Not all suggestions will suit all people or situations, but some people will find a solution to a particular problem they are experiencing with the bathroom or toilet.

The aim of any modifications to a bathroom and toilet is to help the person with dementia maintain independent personal care and continence for as long as possible.

Modifications should also:-

• Help prevent falls
• Make bathing a relaxing and pleasant experience
• Help the person feel warm, safe and secure
• Respect the person's privacy
• Make personal care as easy and safe as possible for the carer

What to try

Toilet

• Put a sign on the door with words, symbols or a picture indicating the toilet.

• Leave the toilet door open so it can be easily identified. Leave a night light on in the toilet and have lights leading along the hall to the toilet from the bedroom. Arrows on the walls pointing towards the toilet may help some people with dementia.

• Remove the wastepaper baskets or any items in the toilet or other rooms that may be mistaken for a toilet. Put up a sign reminding the person with dementia to use toilet paper, flush the toilet and wash their hands. Make sure the toilet paper is in a place that is easy to see.

• Install a grab rail beside the toilet to assist the person to get on and off the toilet. Consider rails with an anti-slip finish. Remove the toilet roll holder if it is being used for support.

• Rent a raised toilet seat or toilet surround with handles.

• Remove the lock from the toilet door so the person won't get locked in.

• Consider replacing an inward opening door with a concertina door that can be opened from outside, or rehang a door to open outwards, if it is likely that assistance will be needed.

• Remove loose mats and check for loose edges of floor covering to prevent falls.

• Avoid white plastic toilet seats. Use a contrasting colour for easier identification. Colour the water in the toilet bowl to assist aim for men.

• Introduce velcro instead of zippers and buttons, or use trousers with an elastic waist to make it easier to get clothes off quickly when going to the toilet.

• Remove toilet cleaning products for safety.

Bath and shower

• Install a grab rail by the bath. Adjustable bath rails that clamp onto the side of the bath will not take as much force safely as those secured to the wall. Towel rails, wash basin and taps are not strong enough to take a person's weight. Consider getting grab rails with an anti-slip finish rather than chrome.

• Use a slip-proof rubber mat or non-slip safety strips in the bath and shower.

• Stick contrasting tape around the edge of the bath to help define its edge. Add a little bit of food colouring to the bath if it helps the person to see where the water is and get some idea of depth.

• If getting in and out of the bath is difficult, install a bath seat fixed across the bath and a hand-held hose connected to the bath taps or shower head.

• Use grab rails mounted on the shower wall and a non-slip mat on the shower floor. If standing is difficult, use a shower chair and hand-held shower with extra long hose.

• Recessed soap containers are safer than the protruding style which can cause injury during a fall. Put buffer cushions or even tape sponge rubber around the fixtures, if necessary, to avoid injury.

• It may be helpful to remove shower doors and replace with a shower curtain to make it easier for access and assistance.

• Ensure adequate lighting to help see the edges of the bath and shower recess. If painting the room, use a colour which contrasts with the bath and basin, so that it is easier for the person to see the fixtures. An all-white bathroom with white fixtures and fittings can be confusing for a person with dementia.

• Remove the door lock so that it is not possible to become locked in the bathroom. As with the door to the toilet, consider installing an outward opening door or a concertina door in case assistance is necessary.

• Use latches or key locks, but where possible choose a discreet model.

• Remove or lock away shampoo and conditioner, other hair care products, cleaning agents, bath oils, medicines, vitamins, razor blades, shavers and any other sharp things.

Appliances

• Heating is important in the bathroom as it makes it more comfortable for people to undress and wash. However, some heaters present safety problems. Heat lamps are safest. Wall mounted radiators can work well if mounted high on the wall. If other heaters are used, they should have guards and automatic cut-off switches in case they are knocked over.

• The hair dryer should be locked away if there is a chance that it would be used with wet hands or put in water by mistake. Install safety plugs in power points.

Floors

• Make a slippery tiled floor non-slip by painting on an etching paint or replace with non-slip tiles in a constrasting colour to the fixtures and fittings. Washable rubber backed bathroom carpet tiles may suit. Use rubber backed bath mats. Re-glue any loose tiles to the floor.

Did you know?

Worldwide, there is a new case of dementia every 4 minutes.