Occupational Therapy Advice and Information

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Dementia friendly Bathrooms:Info Icon

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For some people with dementia, when it becomes more difficult to independently manage their own personal hygiene, adaptations can be distressing as they may fail to recognise their own bathroom once the work has been completed.

For these people it may help if a dementia-friendly bathroom adaptation is provided as soon as possible after a dementia diagnosis has been given.

This gives the person time to familiarise themselves with their new bathroom products and layout.

A dementia-friendly bathroom doesn’t need to cost any more than a standard bathroom adaptation as products needed for such a provision don’t usually cost any more than those for a standard bathroom adaptation for the elderly.

It is essential however that the most appropriate products are chosen and that design guidelines regarding product colour etc. are followed to maximise the safety and comfort of the person with dementia.

Protecting the Individual:-There are seven major dementia challenges

1 – Protection against scalding

  • Someone with dementia may progressively lose safety awareness and as a result they will become more vulnerable to scalding.

Requirements & Considerations:

  • Select thermostatic taps and showers
  • Use LST (low surface temperature) radiators or under-floor heating. Don’t leave pipework exposed as this can get extremely hot.

2 – Fall protection

  • Dementia sufferers are twice as likely to fall as others in their age group, and have a three times greater mortality rate three months later as a result.

Requirements & Considerations

  • Avoid sharp edges on any product in bathroom
  • Remove the bath and install a level access shower to reduce trip hazards. Include a shower seat to reduce the likelihood of falling when showering
  • Choose PET plastic shower screens, not glass
  • Consider installing under-floor heating only so there is no radiator to fall against
  • Choose shower curtains with a breathable fabric to prevent suffocation if the person with dementia passes out, falls and becomes entangled

3. Memory loss

  • Short term memory loss / forgetfulness can lead to a risk of flooding.

Requirements & Considerations

  • Consider selecting a shower that automatically turns off after 30 minutes of use
  • For flood prevention consider using flood-proof plugs or don’t provide a plug at all

4 – Retro memory

  • Most people with dementia have good long-term memory but poor short-term and so are more comfortable with familiar fixtures and fittings from the past.

Requirements & Considerations

  • Choose familiar-looking, traditional tap handles and toilet flush controls not push-button or infra-red ones as modern devices can be confusing
  • Ideally select basins that are big enough to accommodate a toothbrush mug

5 – General confusion

  • For a minority of people with dementia, the reflection of their own face in a glass shower screen or mirror can frighten them and may lead them to believe another person is using the bathroom.

Requirements & Considerations

  • It is important to include a mirror in a bathroom, but it must be capable of being covered (ideally fit a roller blind or similar to it)

6 – Floor colour perception

  • A change in floor colour (in a room or between adjoining rooms/corridors) can lead a person with dementia to believe there is a step up or down, which on a level surface can cause trips or falls.

Requirements & Considerations

  • Ensure the floor is single colour.
  • Avoid the use of level access trays as a person with dementia may assume the colour change from floor to tray means there is a step up or down and fall.
  • The safest solution is a wet room that is fully tiled or safety floored in a single colour.
  • Avoid very dark colour flooring as this can be perceived as being a big hole, making the dementia sufferer reluctant to step into the bathroom.
  • Avoid shiny flooring as this can be perceived as being wet.
  • Avoid flecked or small patterned flooring as this can be perceived as having dirt flecks that the person with dementia may try and pick up, leading to the possibility of falling.

7 – Visual confusion

  • Use contrasting colours to clearly define the showering and toilet areas so the user can safely and effectively locate and use them.

Requirements & Considerations:

  • The shower curtain and shower seat need to be a different and clearly contrasting plain colour to the wall behind it to make it easy to find the showering area.
  • The toilet needs to be a different colour to the wall behind it.
  • The toilet seat needs to be a different colour to the toilet pan / cistern.
  • Toilet roll holders and grab rails also need to be strongly contrasting colours to the walls they are attached to.
  • They do not need to be red, as previously stated, because following research it has become apparent that other strong colours are equally effective, providing they clearly contrast with the wall colour behind them.

Would you like more information on suitable products to consider providing in a dementia friendly bathroom?




For more information of what is the best option for you, get in touch with us.