How to Assist a Loved One with Toileting

By Eric Carter

As loved ones age, they may face challenges in maintaining their independence and need help. One of the most sensitive times a loved one may need help is when toileting. Older adults often experience incontinence, balance issues, and reduced flexibility, which can make toileting a challenge.

Providing help for someone using the bathroom requires empathy, respect, and a thoughtful approach. Explore practical tips for when a loved one needs help with toileting, ensuring their dignity and comfort.

1. Discuss Expectations

Initiating open and honest communication is the first step in addressing toileting challenges. Because using the bathroom is such an intimate task, you and your loved one may find it difficult to talk about. Approach the topic with sensitivity. Express your concern for their well-being and emphasize your commitment to maintaining their dignity.

Ask your loved one how much help they need. Maybe they just need assistance to stand back up after toileting, or they may need complete assistance with toileting. Establishing trust through open conversations can create a supportive environment. It can help put both of you at ease and alleviate some of the awkwardness you may experience at first.

2. Assess Mobility & Accessibility

Evaluate the bathrooms in your loved one's home to identify potential obstacles that may hinder mobility. For example, uneven floors or rugs that could easily be tripping hazards. Consider installing grab bars in the bathroom, non-slip mats, and raised toilet seats to enhance safety.

Ensure that pathways to the bathroom are clear and well-lit, minimizing the risk of accidents, especially at night. Fully stock the bathroom and make sure that supplies are easily within reach. An older adult could fall while bending down or reaching up for a new roll of toilet paper.

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3. Choose the Right Equipment

Investing in the right toileting aids can significantly improve the experience for your loved one. Consider options such as bedside commodes, toilet seat risers, or safety frames to provide additional support. These aids can be particularly helpful if your loved one has difficulty reaching or maintaining balance.

If your loved one experiences incontinence, you may also need to invest in incontinence products, like adult diapers or disposable bed covers.

4. Establish a Routine

Creating a consistent toileting routine can be beneficial for both you and your loved one. Schedule regular bathroom breaks, especially after meals, to reduce the likelihood of accidents. Routines provide predictability and can contribute to a sense of control, promoting a more comfortable experience.

  • Getting to the bathroom: To help your loved one get to the bathroom, stand at their side to provide support in case they trip. Walk at their pace and avoid rushing them. Once in the bathroom, encourage them to take small steps turn around slowly until the toilet is directly behind them.
  • Sitting on the toilet: Help your loved one pull down their pants and undergarments as needed. Then help them slowly lower themselves onto the toilet seat. You can help steady them by putting your hands on their torso and bending your knees as they lower themselves onto the toilet seat.
  • Standing up: Part of your routine may include how you help lift your loved one to get on or off the toilet. When lifting, do so safely. Never lift your loved one outright, or you could put both of you at risk of a dangerous fall.
  • Wiping: It's easiest to assist with wiping when your loved one is standing up or leaning over in a comfortable position. Wipe front to back until your loved one is clean. Use wet wipes as needed after a bowel movement.
  • Washing hands: Help your loved one get their clothes back on. Assist them to the sink to wash their hands.

While it may be awkward at first, you and your loved one will get into a rhythm as you help them on a regular basis.

5. Encourage Independence

While offering assistance is crucial, it's equally important to encourage as much independence as possible. Allow your loved one to perform tasks they can manage, such as adjusting clothing, flushing the toilet or washing their hands. This not only maintains their dignity but also boosts their confidence in their abilities.

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6. Communicate Often

When providing assistance, use clear and positive language with your loved one. Explain each step before proceeding and ask for their input as needed. Respect their preferences like where you can place your hands to help them feel the most stable as they stand up.

By maintaining communication, you can ensure that your loved one's needs are being met while also respecting their dignity and independence.

7. Maintain Privacy

Respect your loved one's need for privacy during toileting. If an older adult needs help, close the door, even if no one else is home. Use appropriate clothing or drapes to maintain modesty, and only provide assistance when absolutely necessary.

8. Implement Proper Hygiene Practices

Maintaining good hygiene is essential for the overall well-being of your loved one. Help with hand washing, provide gentle cleansing, and ensure proper disposal of soiled items. Try to use warm water when washing hands to help maintain comfort and healthy skin. Proper hygiene promotes physical health and also contributes to a sense of dignity and self-worth.

9. Seek Professional Support

If toileting challenges become more complex, seek professional guidance from healthcare providers or get help from caregivers. These professionals can offer personalized solutions, recommend adaptive equipment, and provide guidance on safe and effective caregiving techniques.

At Caring Senior Service, our caregivers are here to provide support to aging loved ones. Our home care services include assistance with personal care, meal preparation, light housekeeping, and more. We can assist your loved one with trips to the bathroom so that you can focus on your relationship or other obligations. Reach out to your local Caring team to learn more.

Tags: Incontinence, Family Caregiver