Common washroom issues for people with dementia and how to avoid them
There are currently over 944,000 people living with Dementia in the UK, and this number is set to exceed 1 million by 2030. This presents important challenges to our society as a whole.
Supporting someone living with dementia with everyday tasks helps to maintain their independence and dignity. This is particularly important in away from home washrooms environments which may be used independently but which can become confusing environments.
Ensuring your washroom is dementia friendly is important for all settings from health care to holiday parks. In this blog, we will explore the common bathroom issues experienced by those living with Dementia and how they can be avoided.
Common bathroom issues for people living with dementia
A person with dementia often experiences issues when using the bathroom which could lead to an upsetting and distressing experience that could create further challenges for the future. Common issues that those with dementia experience when using the toilet include:
- Not being able to find or recognise the toilet.
- Not understanding the signals of needing to use the toilet.
- Not being able to communicate that they need to use the toilet.
- Forgetting important steps when using the toilet, such as undoing clothing, where to find toilet paper.
- Being in unfamiliar surroundings.
- They may be incontinent as a direct symptom of their dementia.
- They may be experiencing side effects from their medication.
- They may be embarrassed after an accident and try to handle it themselves.
Why do dementia sufferers experience bathroom issues?
A person with Dementia will often experience memory problems, which could cause them to forget where the toilet is, or the journey one should take when using bathroom facilities. When designing a bathroom, this should be kept in mind and aspects such as colour coding and washroom layout should be considered.
People with Dementia can experience challenges with recognising and understanding the size and depth of a particular object. Even though they may be able to see, they might not be able to distinguish the toilet or other washroom items from the surrounding décor. Using contrasting colours will help the washroom user to overcome perceptual difficulties.
Difficulties with routines
Some people with Dementia experience difficulties with understanding and following a routine. Some may not understand what signals to follow when they need the toilet and others may forget aspects of the washroom journey such as using toilet roll. Signs and posters in the washroom can help to visually remind and explain the processes to be followed such as hand washing.
Dementia care and washroom design
The various steps of the washroom journey, such as wetting hands, applying soap and drying hands, all require the ability to recall the order in which these tasks should be performed. For people with dementia, this can be particularly challenging and could create further issues. To help aid the journey of the washroom for a person with dementia, various design aspects should be considered.
When designing a washroom, the use of contrasting colours should be considered as this can be particularly helpful for those with dementia. Using colour can help remove much of the visual noise that the user may find disorientating and will help to aid recognition of particular items.
The pacifying effects of certain colours should be considered as this can help to reduce the risks of distress. Blue is often considered to be a particularly calming colour, so adding white dispensers set on blue wall plates offers high contrast whilst also helping to sooth the washroom user. The same colour can be used across all washroom items such as soap dispensers, toilet roll holders and paper towel dispensers. This aids the washroom user by providing ‘guidance through colour coding’ and leads them on a simple journey through the washroom facilities.
This journey can be supported by adding colour coded signage and posters to visually explain how to use the washroom facilities. You could also consider adding colour coded tiles, strips or arrows to help the user navigate through the washroom in a logical order.
Implementing these cues will help to promote effective hand washing and reduce the risk of anxiety amongst washroom users by helping them to build visual associations and a sense of familiarity.
Avoid unnecessary noise
Often, people living with dementia can be easily distracted by sudden or unnecessary sounds. When designing your washroom, you should consider using paper towel dispensers as opposed to hand dryers to avoid unnecessary noise. This will also be better suited to residential properties where it is important to reduce disturbance during the night.
Consider the lighting
As we age most of us will experience restricted vision, so ensuring your washroom has adequate lighting is essential, particularly when using the colour coding feature. It is also recommended to use natural lighting where possible to avoid casting shadows across floors, as this could be mistaken for obstacles and could cause confusion during the user’s journey through the room.
Explore Dudley Industries Dementia Washroom Range
Dudley Industries’ dementia-friendly washroom range is specifically designed to help make the washroom a less confusing place for people living with dementia. The range is designed with white dispensers on a contrasting blue plate to reduce distress and to help distinguish them against the surroundings.
Speak to a team member today to find out more about how the dementia range can help combat bathroom issues experienced by people with dementia and how it could be used in your washroom.