What’s the most dangerous room in the house for a person with dementia? If you said the bathroom, you’d be correct.
In this country, more than 70 percent of home accidents occur in the bathroom-and not just for people with dementia. That’s because the combination of water and slippery tile surfaces makes taking a bath or shower so risky. Falling in the tub or slipping on a slick tile floor is a common occurrence for many older people. The falls are often serious, too, and many people suffer debilitating injuries and never walk without pain again. In addition to slips and falls, other accidents such as burns and cuts can occur.
Early-stage dementia patients will probably have no problem in the bathroom for quite a long time. People with this level of dementia can do a lot for themselves, but if you cue them, make helpful suggestions, and do some preparation for them beforehand in the bathroom, things should go even better. Following are several things you can do now and as the person’s dementia advances to help make the bathroom safer.
Basic bathroom safety tips. Place nonskid strips or mats in and around the tub, shower, toilet, and sink. Install grab bars in the tub/shower and beside the toilet.
Use visual aids. Failing eyesight is a problem for many older people and a major cause of accidents. An easy way to help here is to increase lighting in the bathroom to the maximum. When the room is lighted properly, it allows the care recipient to see obstacles and move safely around the room. A brighter room is also more cheerful and may help minimize depression symptoms suffered by your loved one.
Also, if the bathroom is one color, which is not uncommon, be sure to make use of colored tape to mark the toilet seat and the toilet bowl. Non-skid colored tape around the top edge of the tub will also make it stand out and define edges as well as tub depth. If needed, use the colored tape around the sink to make that stand out as well. Remove the wastebasket from the bathroom so it won’t be confused with the toilet and used as one.
Add seating.If there is adequate space, place a comfortable chair in the bathroom so the care recipient can sit comfortably while drying off after bathing or having their hair washed. Staying seated can help reduce the risk of slipping and falling.
Avoid burns, cuts, and other accidents.To keep the care recipient from getting scalded or burned, cover all hot water pipes, and block access to exposed radiators with a piece of furniture. Also, lower the temperature of the water going into the tub, shower, and sink so it doesn’t exceed 120 F. For men who shave themselves with a safety razor, have them switch to an electric razor to ensure optimal safety. Be sure to keep electric razors, hair dryers, curling irons, and electric toothbrushes away from water to prevent electrocution. Unplug them and put them away after use.
Don’t get locked out. Remove or disengage the lock from the bathroom door so the person with dementia cannot accidentally lock out caregivers. .
Take medication precautions. To prevent overdosing and poisoning, medications should be kept away from the bathroom in a locked drawer or else locked securely in the medicine cabinet. For extra protection, make sure each drug bottle has a childproof cap. For patients with mild dementia who insist on keeping their own medication schedule and taking their own pills, keep only three to five pills in a container. Also, count how many pills are left at the end of each day.
Stow dangerous bathroom products away. In addition to medications, many items that are commonly stored in the bathroom can pose serious problems to your loved one with dementia if they are accidentally swallowed. These include:
- Shampoo and hair conditioner
- Liquid soap
- Nail polish and nail polish remover
- Toilet cleaner
- Air freshener
- Drain opener
Be sure to remove, relocate, or lock up these products.