Helping Persons with Dementia Use the Toilet Safely

Did you know?

Sometimes, people with dementia have trouble starting to urinate once they reach the toilet. Caregivers have found that offering a glass of water or turning on the faucet can help their loved ones with this problem.

You may find that your loved ones have trouble going to the bathroom and using the toilet as their dementia progresses. At first, they may be able to make trips to the bathroom without any problems. However, in the later stages, they may need help remembering where the bathroom is, how to get to it, and even when and how to use the toilet.

Suggestions for Caregivers

Caregivers can do several things around the household to make it easier for a loved one with dementia to get to and to use the bathroom. Make sure that the bathroom and the toilet are:

  • Easy to Reach

    Make sure that there is a bathroom nearby for your loved one, especially for nighttime visits. As your loved one’s coordination, memory, and pace slow down, it is important that he or she has access to a toilet that is on the same floor as close to his or her bedroom as possible. If it is not possible to be near a bathroom, try placing a commode chair, chamberpot, or bedpan in his or her bedroom. These items will become essential in the later stages of dementia when he or she is not able to move from the bed as much.

  • Easy to Identify

    Even if there is a bathroom nearby, your loved one might not be able to identify it. If there is a hallway or space between his or her room and the bathroom, you can place reflective tape and night lights to mark the pathway. Caregivers recommend using bright, contrasting colors for the bathroom door as a simple way to make sure that loved ones remember or at least notice the bathroom. You can also label the door with a picture of a toilet and large block letters displaying TOILET or BATHROOM as an additional memory aid. Caregivers also suggest leaving the door partially open so that their loved ones have another way of understanding what is inside.

    People with dementia can get confused about finding the toilet or remembering what it is. You may find that your loved one will instead urinate or pass bowels in objects that look like toilets, such as trash cans, flowerpots, and vases. If such problems arise, try moving these items to other areas of the home so as not to create this confusion.

  • Easy to Use

    Just as with bathing, you should make sure that your bathroom is safe and easy to use for your loved one. Especially as your loved one loses coordination, it will be important to have items, such as elevated seats and guardrails, for the toilet to make it easier for him or her to sit down and get up safely. Make this process easier by making sure that your loved one is dressed so that he or she can easily get clothing on and off.

Controlling liquids safely

Limiting the amount of liquids that your loved one drinks for a couple of hours before bedtime may reduce the need for nightime trips to the bathroom. However, be careful to make sure that your loved one does not become dehydrated. Also, discourage your loved one from drinking alcohol or beverages that contain caffeine close to bedtime, as these drinks are diuretics that could increase bathroom trips in the night.


The Bathroom and Toilet

Source: Alzheimer's Association (Australia)
Description: This printable flier offers tips to make the bathroom safer and more useful for you and your loved one with Alzheimer's. Advice includes topics on making the toilet easier to use, modifications that can be made to the bath and shower, what to do with appliances, and how to make floor surfaces safer.

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Description: This website offers information about helping your loved one use the bathroom.

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