Making a Bathroom Easier to Use for a Person with Dementia 

If you are the adult child who is the primary caretaker for a parent with dementia, you need to ensure that the bathroom being used by your mother or father is as accessible and as safe as possible. If you are like many people, you may think that installing grab bars at key locations in a bathroom for any older person, including an individual with dementia, is pretty much all that needs to be done. While installing grab bars is important (and is discussed in this article), there is far more than needs to be done to ensure that a bathroom truly is as accessible and safe as possible for your aging parent with dementia. 

In this article we do address a number of topics in regard to making a bathroom easier to use (more accessible and safer) for a person with dementia:

  • Bathroom location
  • Bathroom floorplan and general design
  • Bathroom color scheme
  • Toilet accessibility and safety
  • Shower accessibility and safety

By utilizing the tactics discussed in this article, you optimize the usability, accessibility, and safety of a bathroom for a person with dementia. You allow a person with dementia the possibility to tend to at least some more personal activities of daily living for a more extended period of time. 

Bathroom Location

If an individual with dementia is living in a private residence, when at all possible, that individual’s bathroom should be located on the first floor of the property. Indeed, all areas of the residence that the individual with dementia may need to utilize should be located on the first floor of the property. 

Bathroom Floorplan and General Design 

The bathroom should be designed in a fashion that one might call an open concept. By this it is meant that the floorspace in the room should be as open as possible. The bathroom should not be cramped, if that can be avoided. 

Doors to the bathroom to be used by a person with dementia should open outwards, if at all possible. If there are locks on a bathroom door, they should be removed.

Bathroom Color Scheme

Elsewhere in this article we discuss the fact that as dementia progresses, an individual can have issues with depth perception. This can be addressed in part by paying attention to the color schemes used in a bathroom.

For example, the color of the floors and walls should contrast with that of the toilet so that a person with more advanced dementia will be able to better discern the location of the toilet. Bathroom décor should also take into consideration the importance of using contrasting colors to delineate the bathroom walls from the floor.

Enhancing Toilet Accessibility and Safety

One of the primary areas of concern when it comes to making a bathroom easier to use for a person with dementia is the toilet. As has been mentioned previously, grab bars are a part of the overall effort to enhance the accessibility and safety of a bathroom for an individual with dementia. In the case of a toilet, grab bars should be added to both sides of the unit.

If at all possible, the toilet itself should be designed to face the door of the bathroom. This typically makes the toilet easier for a person with dementia to access.

As dementia progresses, individuals with the condition may begin to have depth perception issues. If a toilet is all the same color, an individual may have issues discerning the seat from the rest of the unit. If the toilet is the same color as the walls, a person may have issues finding the toilet altogether.

A recommended step to take when preparing a bathroom for a person with dementia is to install a toilet seat that is a different color from the rest of the toilet. For example, if the toilet is white, use a toilet seat that is black.

Enhancing Shower Accessibility and Safety

Most people are generally knowledgeable of what needs to be done to enhance the accessibility and safety of a shower to be used by an elderly person or an individual with dementia. As with the toilet, grab bars must be strategically placed within the shower. In addition, a shower seat should be added to the unit as well. 

Some type of nonstick floor surface should be added to the shower. In the alternative, nonstick appliques are a decent alternative.

Care must be taken to ensure that the hot water temperature doesn’t exceed 107 degrees Fahrenheit. An older person’s skin is more susceptible to scalding.  

By following the suggestions outlined in this article, you will have made important steps to rendering a bathroom more useful, more accessible, and safer for an individual diagnosed with dementia. Not only are these suggestions made for a private residence, they apply to the design and outfitting for an assisted living community and other types of long-term care facilities as well.