Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Let's talk toilets!

Personal hygiene becomes more difficult with range of motion limitations. With personal hygiene difficulties come more urinary tract infections (UTIs). With more UTIs come possible UTI-related dementia and/or avoidable pain. Even when a UTI is asymptomatic pain-wise, it can trigger forgetfulness and confusion.

Please forgive this indelicacy, but a woman’s ability to wipe her derrière clean without pushing any stool particles near her urinary opening is critical to prevent UTIs. Some older women simply cannot physically do this. Asking her caregiver to wipe her is likely embarrassing.

So I was wondering how to make this easier, and my one experience with a bidet toilet came to mind. A gentle spray of water washes your behind, and a gentle poof of air dries it. Voilà. No need to twist or reach to wipe with toilet paper. The water duct would have to be aimed properly, of course, or the spray could push stool particles toward the urinary opening.

When I Googled the use of bidet toilets (not freestanding bidets) to prevent UTIs, this New York Times article by Paula Span, “Begin the Bidet,” appeared. Link to it here. This article from 2012 concluded that it’s an interesting idea with possibilities. Tests would need to be conducted. Here’s hoping …

Looking for practical ways to keep your loved one independent longer? Another helpful toilet apparatus is described by Valeri Thelen in “Give Me a Lift,” an article she wrote for’s newsletter. Read it here. Thelen discusses common causes for difficulties getting up from typical toilets and two types of power-lift toilet seats on the market. The article also suggests adding padding or height to the toilet seat.

Toilet seat risers, with and without arms, have been around for a long time and are relatively inexpensive. Commode chairs typically have arms and the ability to adjust seat height. You might also check your local nurses’ lending closet to see if their inventory and lending policies might allow you to borrow these items for the length of time you might need them.

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