Toileting Checklist: What To Do When a Loved One Has Mobility Challenges

Lauren Caggiano

Written by Lauren Caggiano on Mon Apr 24 2023.

Daughter talking to her mother in a wheelchair.

As we age, moving around can become a little harder and can lead to limited mobility. This can be caused or worsened by certain health conditions. When a loved one has limited mobility, getting to the bathroom quickly when needed can become difficult and can result in accidents. 

Fortunately, there are things you can do as a caregiver to increase peace of mind for both parties. That said, we’ve put together your all-in-one checklist to make toileting assistance easier, no matter your loved one’s physical restrictions or health conditions.

Toileting and Health Conditions

There are several reasons why your loved one might need a hand with using the toilet. They can include one or more of the following:

If your older adult lives with these conditions, it’s crucial to have a candid conversation about their needs related to toileting. From here, you, as a caregiver, can take all steps possible to make sure the person feels no embarrassment or shame if they need help getting to and using the toilet.

What You’ll Need

If you notice your loved one is repeatedly struggling to get to the bathroom in time, it’s good to have tools on hand to help clean up accidents and even prevent future ones. You’ll want to invest in the following items to meet their healthcare needs:

  • Gait belts or transfer belts: To get them safely around the house or from one piece of furniture to another. 

  • Plastic commodes/bed pans: Limited mobility means getting to the bathroom when needed can be hard. Commodes can help prevent accidents. 

  • Cleansers: Make sure your loved one stays clean after using the bathroom to avoid rashes.

  • Bath bench/shower chair: For safe and dignified bath times. 

  • Barrier cream: Wearing incontinence products can irritate the skin. Barrier creams can help keep the skin healthy and protected. 

  • Underpad: For extra protection against leaks.

  • Adaptive clothing: Adaptive clothing allow for easier dressing and undressing for those with mobility challenges. 

  • Raised toilet seat: Sitting on to a low toilet can be difficult if you have mobility challenges. A raised toilet set can make sitting on the seat easier and avoid falls. 

  • Walker/rollator: Help your loved one stay as independent as possible with the support of a walker or rollator. 

Step 1: Planning for Accidents

Being prepared for bladder and bowel control issues can help you curb the mental and physical strain that can result from an accident. When such an issue happens, it’s essential to act quickly to help the person clean their body and get into clean clothes. In addition, they might need help getting from one room to another.

Step 2: Be direct and proactive 

It helps to remind your loved one that incontinence or difficulty toileting is a common concern but can often be addressed easily. Communicate that reporting accidents or asking for help when they have a sense of urgency is really in everyone’s best interest.

Step 3: Stay calm 

A person who has an accident or suddenly needs to use the toilet may appear angry, anxious, and cold. It’s helpful to use phrases like “It’s okay” or “These things happen” to change the mood. Reassure them that you’re not angry, and then move on with getting them cleaned and dry. The less you fixate on the accident, the better interaction will likely go.

Step 4: Never scold or yell 

It’s uncomfortable for a person to come to terms with their loss of bladder or bowel control. That’s why caretakers should make sure they’re ready with the tools and resources to prevent accidents from occurring. 

When accidents happen, remember that most older adults don’t need a reminder of their deteriorating capacities. Fear of recrimination only worsens the problem. They may have more accidents if they develop a complex around toileting if their feelings are hurt. 

Step 5: Keep a watchful eye and adapt the assisted toileting process to the person’s preferences 

One of the many things younger people and those without physical limitations take for granted is that we each have our unique habits in the bathroom. For instance, consider the following:

  • How much toilet paper does the person use?

  • Do they like to use cleansing wipes?

  • Do they prefer briefs or boxers? 

  • Do they like to take a book or magazine in the bathroom?

Observing these habits and accommodating requests can make the person receiving care more likely to ask for help.


When an incident like an accident happens, it can trigger feelings of shame and guilt. Some older adults will try to hide their accidents because of these negative emotions. However, a good caregiver can redirect the situation by prioritizing clear, direct communication and swift action. This approach is critical to improving or maintaining a good quality of life for the care recipient. 

Everyone wins when the person under care feels like they’re in a safe environment and can ask for help. This is especially true of an activity like toileting tied closely to a person’s independence. Here are the steps you can follow to help the person feel seen and heard.

Need More Help?

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Lauren Caggiano
Lauren Caggiano

Lauren Caggiano is an Indiana-based copywriter/editor, ACE certified personal trainer and ACE certified health coach. She has a passion for health and wellness and helping people live fuller and richer lives.