Top five tips for creating dementia-friendly bathrooms in social housing
Dementia patients are becoming increasingly empowered to maintain their independence following a diagnosis, with many wanting to live at home for as long as possible. While independent living is a positive option, the diminishing cognitive ability of those with dementia leaves them vulnerable to risks within everyday living – many of which are found in the bathroom.
Fortunately, these risks can be minimised with a few careful design adaptations, but it can be difficult for social housing providers to know exactly what these are. However, with the prospect of an ageing population, it’s vital that social housing providers are aware of how best to accommodate those living with the disease.
James Kane, national account manager at Bristan, discusses the five things to consider when making a bathroom more dementia-friendly in social housing.
Elderly people are at much higher risk of scalding from hot water due to having thinner skin, but this risk becomes even more prevalent when coupled with symptoms of confusion. According to the Department of Health Performance Specification D08, any building with a vulnerable population must have TMV3 approved valves installed on all showers, baths and basins.
Thermostatic mixing valves reduce the risk of scalding by blending hot and cold water together to maintain a safe, steady temperature. Many of them, such as Bristan’s OPAC shower, also contain an automatic shutdown feature in the event of a hot or cold water supply failure, so there’s never a risk of extreme temperature shock.
Dementia sufferers are twice as likely to fall as others in their age group. A well-positioned grab rail is one of the cheapest yet most effective ways to prevent potential accidents. Taking into account individual needs such as height, a rail next to the toilet and bath/shower can help to avoid slips or falls.
Timed flow taps
The effects of dementia can often result in sufferers forgetting everyday tasks that would have once come naturally to them – for example, turning off taps after use. This could result in the bathroom getting flooded and leave them vulnerable to falls. Although primarily a safety issue, a tap that’s left running can quickly rack up water bills or cause damage to the building. It’s in the interests of both the social housing provider and the resident to have timed-flow taps installed so that only a set amount of water can be dispensed at any one time.
Many dementia sufferers experience difficulties with vision and colour perception, but research has shown that incorporating contrasting colours can help add clarity to the world around them and highlight potential risks. Choosing grab rails with a prominent colour will call attention to their importance, while ensuring that the floor is plain with no patterns will minimise any chance of confusion when moving around.
Don’t change too much
Making the right changes is important for the wellbeing and quality of living of a dementia sufferer, but their complex needs mean that too much change may cause the person to feel distressed. While it may seem natural to renovate the bathroom space in line with the other alterations, it’s best to keep the more traditional fixtures and fittings that may provide comfort for the resident.