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Tips to help the elderly access the toilet at night

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Help in the dark hours is important, as the night time is more of a struggle for the elderly than the day.

A common issue as people get older is nocturia. This is when the body still needs us to go to the toilet regularly, even when asleep. Regular toilet-going means more than twice. Our bodies naturally produce fewer anti-diuretic hormones or the natural chemicals that help us to retain fluid. Therefore, accessing the toilet at night is a common problem for older people.

If you add in difficulty moving and seeing, then night time could quickly become a significant issue.

If toilet going is possible but a struggle

The level of mobility of the individual will change the advice it would be best for you to follow.

If the person you are caring for can get themselves to the toilet, then they should be aided to maintain this independence.

It may be that you ensure there is a clear path between the bed and the toilet. Removing trip hazards or large furniture from the route to the bathroom will give confidence to the elderly.

It is also a good idea to fix a wall-mounted grab bar near the toilet, so the person can steady themselves before lowering down onto the toilet.

You may also consider purchasing a night light, which can offer a visible route without disturbing sleep. If the night light won’t work, maybe leaving the bathroom light on overnight would be a better choice.  Even a simple decision like a brightly coloured toilet seat or raised toilet seat could make all the difference.

If toilet-going independently is difficult

If independence at night is limited, then you may need to prepare for the possibility of accidents. Therefore, a waterproof mattress protector is a decent purchase, as are pads to wear at night.

Limited independence might also be catered for using a commode. A commode can sit next to the bed, reducing the distance that the individual must walk before going to the bathroom.  Sometimes the need to go to the toilet is more urgent than the speed on offer.  A commode would cut down the chances of being caught short.  If privacy is an issue, you can always purchase a commode screen.

You could purchase night clothes that make it easy to go to the toilet. Velcro openers rather than buttons will help the individual, and you then remove clothing before going to the bathroom.

If the elderly needs full support going to the bathroom

If your friend or relative can’t get out of bed by themselves, you need to think carefully before trying to help lift them from the bed. The lifting of the elderly is a specialised task that requires some training. Without this training, you could injure not only yourself but also the person you are attempting to help.

If lifting the patient out of bed each time they need the toilet is out of the question, then a bedpan is a good option. It is fair to presume that you require rest too. If an older adult goes to the toilet more at night, you would need to be awake several times too. Unless you are willing to appoint a carer for overnights, this is an unsustainable situation. Therefore, providing a bedpan at arm’s reach will allow the individual to go to sleep with little help.

To assist a person to use a bedpan, use pillows for sitting them up as straight as possible. You may need to support the lower back as they lift buttocks to sit on the pan. Help deal with clothing if necessary. Leave the individual with the bedpan, until they say they are done – covering them with a towel if possible. Then help with wiping and using powders and creams to avoid soreness or rashes.

If you are trained to lift and manoeuvre someone to the bathroom, be sure to give them privacy once at the toilet. Leave them alone while they complete what tasks are needed and wait to be asked to return. Ultimately, it is vital to maintain a sense of dignity for the people involved.

HARTMANN Direct are producers of incontinence pads, both urinary and faecal, which can be worn overnight to aid restful sleep. Such aids could be invaluable to those elderly individuals who strive for continued independence.

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