Dementia and Bathroom Accidents

Distinguishing colours and awareness can become an issue for a person with dementia

Dementia and bathroom accidents can be minimalised. We take finding the toilet for granted yet we’ve all experienced the stress and anxiety of needing the toilet and not being able to locate one. When dementia is involved, the frustrations are multiplied many times over with raised agitation, anxiety, stress and depression all adding to the problem.

The reason people 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 medication to name a few. But, in other situations, it could be that they are not able to find, recognise, or use the toilet.

Find’s toilet strategy is all about using highly visible, high contrast colour to establish a clear route to the toilet, and once there, to use the same principles to ‘decipher’ that environment by making the important things like grab rails and the toilet itself, easier to see. This boosts confidence and independence as well as helping to maintain or restore dignity.

Dementia and bathroom accidents

• A door that is a different colour to other doors in a corridor can help a person with dementia to identify the location of the toilet. Used alongside appropriate signage, finding the way to the toilet can be made a lot easier.
• 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. Using a raised toilet seat increases the height of the toilet, which may enable someone to rise more easily.
• Using a different coloured toilet seat can help residents to distinguish it from its surroundings as well as making it more visible and easier to identify. Additional features such as soft close hinges will prevent the seat from slamming shut and creating a loud noise, which can be startling.
• If a person with dementia requires 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, grab rails are a simple but effective solution for reducing falls in the bathroom.
• 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.
• 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.
• A person with dementia must be able to see what they need as a reminder. A bathroom in which everything is the same colour and is sterile in appearance can have a detrimental effect. Using high contrasting colours can help to ensure that important features such as the toilet stand out.
• The use of contrasting colours can help draw attention to something that is important. For example, self-adhesive door coverings can be used to highlight the door area and draw attention to the toilet and a toilet seat in a contrasting colour can help with positioning.
• 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.
• A person with dementia may not recognise 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.
• The primary consideration when adapting the 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 on slippery surfaces and injuries due to the limited space should also be taken into consideration. .

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 the additional staff time required to help a person use the bathroom.

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