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Bathroom Safety for Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Kiera Powell, R.N.
Verified by Kiera Powell, R.N. and written by Chad Birt on Tue Sep 28 2021.
Medically Verified
Bathroom Safety for Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Learning about bathroom safety for people with Alzheimer’s and dementia is vital since many people with advanced Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia require assistance with daily activities like bathing, brushing their teeth, or using the toilet.

Since many of these tasks are considered private, your loved one might express feelings of anger, embarrassment, or frustration when you try to assist.

This is normal, but it can make your job challenging. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to increase bathroom safety for Alzheimer’s & dementia, without sacrificing the quality of care you provide.

What types of safety hazards does the bathroom present for people with Alzheimer’s & dementia?

The bathrooms in your home present various safety hazards for people with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, including:

  • Slippery floors

  • Low toilet height

  • Potential obstacles like bath mats or rugs

  • Dim lighting

  • Increased humidity (which can cause medications to breakdown or deteriorate)

Slick surfaces, like the floor of the shower or the sides of the bathtub, may also increase the risk of a fall.   

First things first—Schedule a home safety evaluation

Before you make any upgrades at home, meet with your loved one’s primary care physician. More often than not, they’ll recommend you schedule a home safety evaluation with an occupational or physical therapist. If your senior doesn’t already work with a therapist, their PCP can provide a referral.

A home safety evaluation involves an assessment of your living environment. The occupational or physical therapist visits your home and tours each room. Afterward, they provide you with a list of recommendations to increase your loved one’s safety and reduce the risk of an accident or injury.

Best items for improving bathroom safety

The occupational or physical therapist who visits your home makes a series of safety recommendations based on your loved one’s age, medical history, and physical capabilities.

There are a number of items that can make it easier to get around in the bathroom while preventing falls, including:

Shower chair. A shower chair provides a firm foundation for your loved one to sit on while taking a bath or shower. They’re especially beneficial for people who are weak or have poor balance. 

Grab barsGrab bars are safety devices designed to help your loved one keep their balance. Installing grab bars in the shower and/or next to the toilet, makes it easier to sit down on the commode, step out of the bathtub, or make it to the sink without slipping and falling. 

Faucet cover. If your senior slips and falls in the bathtub or shower, they could cut or bruise themselves on the faucet and faucet handles. Installing a foam or a rubber cover provides an additional layer of protection. 

Non-slip surfaces. Bathroom flooring is notoriously slick. Installing non-skid strips or a bathroom mat can reduce the buildup of moisture, providing extra traction.

Remove door locks. Many bathroom doors also feature locks. Removing the locks from these doors can prevent your loved one from accidentally locking themselves in.

What else can I do to improve bathroom safety for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia?

Aside from purchasing and installing various safety equipment, consider changing your approach to bath and toilet time. Here are a few suggestions:

1. Prepare the bathroom in advance.

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia, most people are able to use the toilet and bathe on their own. Still, as the disease progresses, seemingly simple tasks may become challenging. To make the process easier on you (and your loved one) get everything ready in advance. 

For example, if it’s time for a bath, run the water and set out the soap, a washcloth, and a clean towel. If your senior is easily confused or becomes agitated, you might also want to put some relaxing music on or light a scented candle. 

Once your loved one enters the bathroom, help them undress and sit down in their shower chair. If they’re embarrassed or self-conscious about being naked, drape a towel over their lap or shoulders. When you begin, explain each step of the bathing process, so your senior knows exactly what to expect.  

2. Bath or Shower for Alzheimer's & Dementia—which is better? Try new things.

Everyone has a preference. At first, it may take some trial and error to determine the best approach. If you’re unsure, fill the bathtub with two or three inches of water and have your senior sit down on their shower chair. If they react negatively to the water, don’t add any more. If they appear comfortable, turn the shower on low, but keep the stream from hitting them directly. (Pro tip: A handheld showerhead makes this easy.)

Encourage your senior to participate in the bathing process. If they’re relatively alert and physically able, have them hold the washcloth or sponge in their hand. If it helps, you can even put your hand over theirs and guide them while washing and rinsing.

Don’t forget to gently clean and rinse off sensitive areas of the body like the buttocks, genitals, and perineum. That’s especially true if your senior wears diapers, pull-ups, or other incontinence products.

3. Don’t be afraid to try bathing alternatives.

Neurodegenerative ailments like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia can make it difficult to communicate. If bath time frequently ends in a struggle, it may be time to ditch traditional methods altogether. 

The Alzheimer’s Association recommends:

  • Using soap, warm water, and a sponge or wet wipes to clean up between baths and showers

  • Washing your loved one’s hair and body on different days of the week

  • Washing only a few body parts each day

You can also try Bath Wipes as an alternative to a full bath. If you don’t have the strength, energy, or bandwidth to provide quality baths, you might also want to consider hiring a trained caregiver or nursing assistant to visit your home and help out.

4. Always accompany your loved one.

Alzheimer’s disease and dementia affect everyone differently. Since the bathroom presents so many potential safety hazards, it’s crucial you (or another caretaker) are always present. 

During baths and toilet trips, encourage your senior to do as much as they can. If they need assistance wiping, buttoning up their pants, or drying off, you can step in and take over.

We hope this list of suggestions makes your job that much easier. By paying attention to bathroom safety and making the necessary adjustments, you can encourage your loved one’s independence and reduce caregiver stress. 

If you need help selecting safety items for your bathroom, or you have questions about the products we carry, contact our friendly Care Team by calling (855) 855-1666 or sending an email to support@carewell.com

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance B2B and B2C medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.