Creating More Dignified Bathroom Experiences For The Elderly – Showerbuddy

Creating More Dignified Bathroom Experiences For The Elderly

Creating More Dignified Bathroom Experiences For The Elderly

Showerbuddy |

Ageing is something that all of us need to contend with. But we don’t all experience ageing in the same way – some people are predisposed to losing mobility earlier than others. And health conditions will evolve differently. But at some point, mobility will reduce. For anyone who’s lived independently with freedom of body movement, losing this ability is a big adjustment. The reduction of movement often happens gradually, so it’s natural that many will resist help or even acknowledge there’s an issue.
The bathroom is where this loss of independence is perhaps its most jarring – a historically private moment alone that now requires help from equipment and/or care to conduct safely. As an assistive technology equipment manufacturer, we understand just how valuable this independence is, no matter one’s age.


The Showerbuddy range is very popular within the elderly community, with options that are great for travelling, and models fit for personal bathroom use. Our shower transfer models are designed for the entire spectrum of mobility impairment, from individuals who can largely move themselves around but benefit from some weight support, to those who can bathe themselves but require transfer assistance, and finally those who’ve lost significant mobility and require assistance from another carer.

So how do families ensure they protect elderly loved ones’ dignity in the bathroom? This article provides some suggestions based on the thousands of elderly Showerbuddy users we’ve engaged with in our community.

Introducing help in the bathroom gradually

Change to well-established routines is not straight forward. A person with 60, 70, 80+ years of autonomy in the bathroom is unlikely to be completely willing to allow someone else to bathe and clean them in the bathroom. A mistake we sometimes see is when partners or adult children spring these changes on their elderly loved one, or worse still, combine them with a number of other significant lifestyle changes (such as moving into a new home). This sometimes happens when the mobility reduction hasn’t been discussed properly for a period of time; naturally creating conflict and upset when mobility support becomes critical instead of a good idea.
For that reason, it’s a good idea for the mobility help to be introduced step by step – and probably not to a significant degree to start with. Mobility assistance extends well beyond the bathroom, and it may even be more palatable in places like the kitchen or living room where help to reduce reaching, bending and stretching will be less of an adjustment.


In the bathroom, simply starting out by moving all items within reach and ensuring that there are sufficient anti-slip measures in place would be a good start. Some elderly people opt for a raised toilet seat as one of the first mobility items in the bathroom. This will help the difficulty of bending to sit, and the need for core strength to get off a low toilet seat.

It’s not just equipment that may be part of an elderly person’s long term bathroom mobility care. Sometimes a family member or outside carer will be needed to help conduct the day’s activities. Your doctor or occupational therapist may suggest some lighter care to start with if the level of mobility allows for it.

Keeping communication high

Occupational Therapists (OTs) often talk to us about the importance of communication between the individual who’s experiencing a loss of mobility and their immediate circle – family, friends and care.
A partner of an elderly person may or may not have their own physical challenges, so each situation is different. If the partner is able to provide assistance, they should make sure that they’re taking their loved one’s preferences into account. The same applies for adult children looking after their elderly parents – there’s no age at which excluding someone from the decision making around their bathroom habits is necessary.

Communication provides a number of functions when it comes to bathroom mobility:

  • Ensures that the individual is comfortable and happy throughout the process of using the shower, bath or toilet.
  • Helps to refine the bathroom care plan as feedback is gained in real time and fed back to an OT.
  • Identifies any aspect of the bathroom experience that is particularly difficult.
  • Allows for the best equipment solution to be tested and reviewed before settling on an ongoing solution (i.e. finding out how the elderly user felt about using that equipment during a trial).
  • Gives the individual more control over what happens in the bathroom each day – if they want to switch the order of things around, or need an adjustment of body position, they can work with whoever is providing assistance.

If you’re unsure about how to approach communicating more effectively, do speak with your loved one’s doctor and the occupational therapist; they’re well experienced in these dynamics and can provide guidance for you both.

Consider external home care support

Dignity in the bathroom for some elderly people means not putting the pressure on their partner to help with anything – be it lifting, cleaning or bathing help. Even in situations in which a partner or adult child is happy to help, it may be harder to enjoy the bathroom experience if a loved one is struggling to provide that support consistently. Professional home care is a wonderful service to engage with, and helps to compartmentalise daily personal routines with family relationships.

Sometimes a combination of the two is what works best; set days or times of day where a home carer comes in for support, offering family respite, and other times of the week where family members help out. This is a popular choice in many countries where home care is funded partially or costs, making full time care uneconomical.

Ultimately home care can help dignity in the bathroom because the nature of the relationship with a home carer is that of a set of tasks and jobs that both parties understand. An outside professional may take some time to settle into a comfortable routine with their client, but once this has settled in, it can be an excellent resource for elderly people with mobility impairments.

Combine solo activity with assistance

Mobility impairment doesn’t preclude independence entirely. This is important for families to understand so that they don’t ‘over-correct’ and remove control from their elderly loved one’s lives. In the bathroom, there may be a number of activities that can be executed alone – brushing teeth, drying off hair, applying body wash or even bathing oneself entirely (with help nearby if needed). An occupational therapist’s job is to help plan these daily functions in a way that makes their client the most comfortable. They will be able to provide a good plan to provide the support that’s needed for the individual’s safety, whilst still giving them the licence to feel in control.

This combination of help and solo activity in the bathroom is another way of gradually transitioning an elderly individual away from full independence to assisted mobility. Some may have degrading personal mobility that over time means the definition of independence changes somewhat (such as being able to enjoy a period of showering alone vs. actively bathing themselves).

Assistive Equipment

Use good quality assistive equipment for the bathroom

One of the best ways to create an enjoyable bathroom experience is by utilising good equipment that replaces manual human effort.
A good bathroom mobility system can remove things like body support whilst bathing and toileting, transfers in and out of bathtubs, moving body position inside a shower and even drying and brushing teeth. The more of these complex movements and stability issues that can be taken care of, the less need for another person to help, creating much more opportunity for independence in the bathroom.


The Showerbuddy range is designed with this front of mind. Combined with the range of accessories, Showerbuddy can play a vital role in unlocking more independence for elderly people experiencing mobility challenges. It will also evolve with the user, with optional add-ons that provide more support as needed.

Further reading

Further reading on the topic

Enjoyed this article? You may be interested in these resources online:

The information in this article is intended as general information only and is not a replacement for official health guidance by your local medical providers. Please always consult an occupational therapist and/or local healthcare for more specific guidance.