Bidets – A Clean Concept for Seniors and People With Disabilities

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Hygiene after toileting is something that most adults prefer to do privately, independently, and discreetly in America.  It is also among one of the most difficult challenges physically and emotionally for many people who have disabilities.  People who have normal hand and arm function and balance, who can coordinate some pretty complex motor activity  and  propriocetive processing, can only imagine how difficult it is to get toilet paper to the right spot.   The most common cleaning method in The United States is currently toilet paper.   While there are several good pieces of adaptive equipment to help people handle toilet paper, I urge you to consider an attachable bidet as an extremely satisfactory substitute for handling toilet paper.

An attachable bidet can make personal hygiene easier for people with disabilities and their caregivers.  The bidet provides the water pressure necessary to clean the genital and rectal areas thoroughly without manual intervention. The water jet and air dry features of some bidets will allow many people with disabilities to clean themselves.  Caregivers and the person being cared for may prefer allowing the bidet to clean genitals and peri -anal areas as opposed to the caregiver providing manual assistance. Seniors without disabilities are also discovering the comfort and cleanliness associated with bidets. The anal sphincter undergoes physiological changes with aging 1 and there’s an added risk of bladder or vaginal infections for women as they age. 2   Bidets are great at reducing risks associated with imperfect cleaning and can even offer dual nozzles that can provide anal cleansing as well as feminine cleansing.

Though I’ve recommended bidets over the years and tried a few myself, I’m still learning.  Here are Five important things I can share about Bidets for Seniors and People with Disabilities.  Please feel free to comment if you can add to my list.

1. People in the United States may assume that Toilet Paper is the best method of personal cleaning, but many people across the world rely on bidets for religious, health, and eco friendly reasons.

2. There are several basic types of bidets:  free standing for soaking or jet spray, attachable bidets that replace toilet seats on existing toilets,  attachments to existing toilets and toilet seats, and portable bidets.    I usually recommend attachable bidets for my clients as they don’t take up more room in the bathroom, don’t require transfer back and forth between toilet and bidet, and have features that provide independence.

3. You need to consider size and function when selecting a bidet.  Attachable bidets are sized to fit either rounded or elongated toilets.  They have different features such as location of controls, size of controls, remote or attached controls, number of wands, air dry or no air dry, heated seats, and wand self cleaning features to name a few.  All the models I’m familiar with have a sensor to keep the jets from being activated accidently. However, Mike our construction manager can tell you a story about testing the unit while the sensor is covered!

4. You can combine a bidet with other access or safety equipment such as risers or grab bars.  Risers that fit between toilet and toilet seat or under the toilet work.  Risers that sit on top of the toilet don’t.   In the video the homeowner needed a great deal of height and grab bar assistance for standing/sitting.  We combined an under seat riser the Toilevator, with a Moen safety frame and a Healthcraft Superpole with Superbar.

5. It is simple to prepare the area for a bidet.  I always suggest that people remodeling the bathroom provide a GFCI protected outlet near the toilet even if they have never considered using one.   You can add a bidet without having an outlet close by, but it makes it easier to install and doesn’t tie up the other outlets in the bathroom.  The Bidet will use the existing water supply for the toilet. Bidets are increasing in popularity in all age groups for many reasons.  You might add one just because you want one even if you never need it for reasons related to disability or aging.

Let us know if you’d like to discuss bidets and what features you might find most useful.

1   Principle and Practice of Geriatric Medicine Chapter 34 Sphincter Function Syed H. Tariq
2   Dr. Andrew Weil on the web