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How to help elderly parents navigate their daily bathroom routine

In collaboration with Showerbuddy

There are few daily routines quite as personal as using the bathroom. Privacy during bathing or using the toilet is part of maintaining our dignity and privacy. When someone experiences a loss in mobility, they are often required to rely upon others to manage such activities. Living with our elderly parents is almost embedded into our way of life in the United Kingdom, so the challenges associated with caring for an aging person with a loss of mobility is very familiar to many UK households.

So how do adult children ensure that they’re respecting the dignity of their parents, whilst making sure they’re able to bathe and use the toilet properly? In this article we’ll provide some insights around how you might be able to navigate this challenge.

Make sure your parents feel in control of ‘the plan’

Elderly parents and their children will have conflict when a proper daily plan hasn’t been put in place. This is why an occupational therapist (OT), case manager or aged care consultant is a valuable member of your team. Right at the beginning they can work with all parties to agree on a plan around using the bathroom – both for scheduled times of day and ‘reactive’ moments.

As this plan is put together, your elderly parent must feel that they’ve had their wishes listened to and factored in. Just because they may require some additional assistance accessing and using the bathroom facilities doesn’t mean they don’t need and deserve control over how they’ll conduct these actions.

In some cases your elderly parent may have lost some cognitive function that means more of the plan will need to be put together by you and the OT. Even in these scenarios, it’s crucial to consider what may be the most dignified for your loved one.

A good plan set early will be workable for longer than playing it by ear. Even still, you may need to adjust the plan as your elderly parent’s needs evolve over time, or they simply have new preferences once the routine has been tried for a while. Keep an open and supportive attitude – a minor change could mean a lot.

Choose the bathroom that offers easiest access

If you’ve got a home with multiple bathroom options, choose that which is:

  • Closest to the bedroom of your elderly parent
  • A reasonably close distance from typical living areas
  • On the same level as bedroom/living area
  • Larger if possible.

If you don’t have that option, not to worry – most bathrooms can be made to work. However, if there’s the possibility to meet the above criteria the trips to the bathroom will be quicker and easier.

Remove any hazards or obstacles from the bathroom

A bathroom that’s cluttered presents more potential for accidents like tripping over. Families should do a full clean out of any objects on the floor that are simply not needed, and find any opportunities to bring storage up onto the walls. If you’ve got a large bathroom, simply ensure everything is neatly positioned at the sides of the room. If you’re navigating a small bathroom, you’ll need to get creative with what stays and goes in the bathroom.

Remember, when you’re assisting your senior parent in the bathroom, you may not want the hassle of clearing things out the way at the same time.

Keeping the bathroom well lit and ventilated

With surfaces coming into contact with plenty of moisture every day, there’s more risk of slipping in the bathroom than essentially anywhere else in the home. That is, unless you keep the bathroom dry and ventilated as consistently as possible.

To keep your bathroom nice and dry:

  • Get fresh air coming through the room by opening the windows
  • Make use of any extractor fan to help pull moisture out
  • Use any heat lighting to aid quicker drying
  • Wipe down surfaces such as floor tiles and basins.
  • Schedule your elderly parent’s daily shower before the rest of the household, or long after to ensure the bathroom doesn’t still have residual moisture.

Along with ventilation, a safe bathroom is one where visibility is high – that means bringing in natural sunlight and good quality bright LED lighting. Many of our aged loved ones are also contending with visibility challenges along with their reduced mobility. So consider them by making sure your bathroom has excellent lighting.

Consider assistive technologies for easier access to the shower and toilet

Manually helping our elderly parents onto the toilet or into a shower isn’t just awkward, but presents a lot of risks of injury to both of you. You may have looked into shower stools from your local homewares store. These might be okay for someone with only slight fatigue issues, but really won’t be helpful for someone who needs their weight and posture supported.

Instead, there are shower chair systems that exist that not only support comfortable bathing, but assist with the process of transferring in and out of different types of showers and baths. These systems also provide a full commode system that allows positioning over the toilet.

Bathroom Mobility experts Showerbuddy have been designing products for different use cases and bathrooms since 2004. Their Transfer Range provides shower chairs to take the user across the edge of a step-in shower unit or bathtub without any manual lifting at all. What makes these solutions great for families of an elderly parent is they require no destructive remodelling of a bathroom. Everything is installed without any drill holes or permanent fixtures.

Empowering elderly to manage bathroom tasks themselves where possible

Despite the best of intentions, families can sometimes overcompensate for their senior parent’s lack of mobility by carrying out bathroom tasks for them. This in many instances is simply unnecessary and can leave a parent feeling demoralised about their bathroom routine.

Instead, families should continually communicate with their elderly loved one about which tasks they’re willing and able to do. In the bathroom, the most common of these tasks is bathing oneself. And with the support of a good quality shower chair, this is absolutely possible.

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Image Photo by Micael Santana from Pexels




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