confused senior woman with dementia

Designing A Bathroom For A Person With Dementia

Dementia affects more than 800,000 people in the UK with numbers rising every year as the population gets older. People who have dementia can find their appreciation of danger decreases, making routine tasks hazardous. Bathing is one such task that presents many dangers, such as obstacles in the bathroom, slip hazards and scalding hot water. This can cause the bathroom to become a dangerous and frightening place, which a person with dementia may become reluctant to use.

For people with dementia, bathrooms present a particular challenge and several aspects require consideration when making them easier to use. A specialist in the field of designing bathrooms for disabled people, rather than a regular plumber with no experience of people with dementia, will have the experience and knowledge required to create a design that gives attention to several important aspects including the following:

Work with memory loss, not against it

People with dementia experience short term memory loss, leading to confusion with the bathroom layout and operation of bathroom items. It’s a good idea to adapt the bathroom in the early stages of a dementia diagnosis, so that the person can get familiar with the bathroom before their dementia progresses to the later stages.

Select a shower which will turn off after a defined period of time, such as 30 minutes. Use tap handles, toilet flush and plug styles which are already familiar to the person who will use the bathroom. Consider a cover for the mirror if the person with dementia experiences confusion and no longer recognises their reflection in the mirror.

Be aware of colour perception and visual confusion

Different colour floors and items in the bathroom may cause confusion for a person with dementia. For example a change in floor colour may look like a step (a wet room is an ideal solution as the floor is all one colour), shiny surfaces may appear wet and dark surfaces may look like gaps or holes. Fittings such as shower chairs, grab rails, toilet seats and toilet roll holders are available in strong blues or reds to distinguish them from the background walls.

Protect against scalding hot water

Thermostatically controlled taps will prevent hot water causing burns or scalds. Consider using under floor heating to eliminate the presence of a radiator. Take care not to leave pipe work exposed as the hot water pipes can get very hot.

Reduce trip hazards

Use a level access shower tray to prevent a shower step causing an obstacle. A bath, even a walk-in bath with a low step, is not advisable for a person with dementia as the step into the bath still presents a potential hazard.

Choose safety shower screens fitted with PET plastic and avoid glass altogether. Remove radiators and fit under floor heating, so that people do not knock against bulky radiators projecting from the wall.

Ensure the shower curtain is made from a breathable material to prevent the risk of suffocation should someone become caught and tangled in the curtain. Of course, always look to reduce or eliminate sharp edges in the bathroom.

Caring for a loved one with dementia can be a stressful time, but help and support is available to lessen the burden. Upgrading the bathroom can be an expensive undertaking at the best of times and is no different when adapting it to suit a person with dementia.

To ensure your budget gets the best results, entrust the adaptation to a specialist in this area, such as Absolute Mobility. For help with upgrading your bathroom please feel free to call us on 01491 0411 041.

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