How to Help a Person with Dementia Use a Bidet

ToiletTalk on Dementia MapSubmitted by Maria Lindbergh
Toilet Talk

Imagine this: you’re helping your family member with dementia to and from the bathroom. Usually they wipe their own bottom after using the toilet. But today for some reason, they refuse to wipe!

Can you relate to this awkward scenario?

Caregivers and their loved ones sometimes have feelings of frustration in situations like these. It’s important for family members with dementia to keep their privacy and dignity in the bathroom. However, a lack of wiping leads to skin problems and potential infections.

So what’s a caregiver to do?

The last thing anyone wants to do is to nag your loved one to wipe their own butt! It’s time to try an alternative to wiping with toilet paper: consider using a bidet to clean after a bowel movement (BM).

What Is a Bidet?

A bidet is a device that sprays water to clean a person’s perirectal and periurethral parts (AKA your bottom). There are three main types of bidets used in the U.S.:

  • portable bidets
  • handheld bidets
  • bidet seats

People with dementia could independently use all three types of bidets or caregivers could provide assistance as needed. Bidets make it easier for caregivers to ensure their family member’s bottoms are thoroughly cleaned.

If you’d like to learn more about each type, please go through the links below:

What Are the Benefits of Using a Bidet?

Water is more gentle and effective at cleaning your bottom compared to toilet paper. Water removes all residue after toileting; it’s like a shower for your bottom!

Toilet paper can leave residue on your booty skin, which makes people feel unclean. Repeated wiping tugs sensitive perirectal skin and creates microabrasions that make the skin vulnerable to germs and infection. On the other hand, water keeps skin free from microabrasions and washes away harmful germs into the toilet bowl.

Bidets are great for caregivers because they prevent injury from overreaching while wiping someone’s booty. It’s less strenuous to help a person with dementia operate a bidet compared to wiping their bottom in a tiny, cramped bathroom.

Other benefits of using a bidet include:

  • Saving money on toilet paper
  • Reducing toilet paper usage by 80%
  • Showering less frequently

Older people have fragile skin that easily dries out. It’s important for them to shower no more than two to three times a week for good skin and hair health. Bidets help people feel more clean “down there”, which helps extend the time in between showers.

How to Help a Person with Dementia Use a Bidet

Before we dive into the steps, it’s important to note that you are the expert on your family member with dementia. You know best how to approach the toileting topic!

If your family member likes toilet humor, then laugh about how different it feels to use water to clean their bottom. If they’re incredibly private about bathroom matters, be matter of fact about how water takes care of their personal hygiene.

The following steps are a guide to help your person with dementia get started with using a bidet. If you feel like you need additional advice, please ask your family member’s primary care provider for a referral for occupational therapy.

Occupational therapists help incorporate the use of a bidet after toileting. They work with you and your family member in finding the best solution for your unique needs.

Alright, let’s get started with learning how to help your family member with dementia use a bidet!

Step 1. Introduce the Bidet to Your Family Member with Dementia

Choose a good time of day to introduce the bidet to your person with dementia. You want them to feel calm and relaxed. Ideally, you’ll be in the bathroom with your family member to connect the idea of using the bidet after toileting.

Tell them that you found something that makes it easier to clean their bottom after using the toilet. Then show your family member how the bidet works by pretending to use it on yourself. Clothing optional depending on your level of comfort!

Your demonstration will be a little different depending on the type of bidet you choose. At the end of the day, all bidets work the same: aim and spray.

Here’s a suggested way to introduce the bidet to your family member: Show them where the water comes out of the bidet nozzle. Say, “the water cleans your bottom.” Sit on the toilet, aim the nozzle, and pretend to spray water.

If your family member is not interested in learning about the bidet, don’t push it. Try another day and time to talk about it. Put yourself in their shoes – would you want to learn about something new if it was forced on you?

Probably not.

Give your loved one time to get used to the idea of using water instead of toilet paper to clean their bottom.

Step 2. Invite Your Family Member with Dementia to Explore the Bidet

After you demonstrate the bidet to your family member, invite them to explore it! Ask them if they want to feel the water stream with the palm of their hand. This will give your loved one the chance to feel the water pressure and temperature.

If you’re using a bidet seat, remember that the water coming out is completely clean. It’s NOT water from the toilet bowl! Asking your family member to feel the water on their palm is a good way to adjust their preferred water pressure and temperature before using it on their bottom.

Typically, handheld bidets don’t have the option to change water temperature. It’s still a good idea for your family member to spray the water on the palm of their hand to give them an idea of what it might feel like on their bottom.

Portable bidets give family members more opportunities to learn how it works. Encourage your family member to spray the bidet in the shower or bath, on plants, at the pool, or while washing dishes for instance.

There’s a high potential for things to get wet and messy while learning how to use the bidet. Be prepared with dry towels and expect bidet misfires! Hopefully, this will lead to laughter and fun memories for all involved.

As a sidenote, it’s not necessary for your family member to master spraying the bidet before moving on to step 3. The goal is for them to feel relaxed with the idea of using the bidet after toileting.

Step 3. Ask Your Family Member with Dementia to Try the Bidet

When you feel like your person with dementia is comfortable with the bidet, it’s time to move to the last step!

After your family member uses the toilet, ask if they want to try using the bidet to clean their bottom. If they say “yes”, ask them if they want to use it on their own or with your help.

If your family member wants to use the bidet by themself, consider standing by to assist with changing the bidet’s water settings or with positioning the water spray. If they’re struggling with the bidet, it’s okay to step in and say something like, “I’m going to help you get thoroughly cleaned. We’ll keep working on getting better at this.”

If your family member says “no” to trying the bidet, that’s okay. Support them in their decision and use toilet paper instead! It’s okay to wait another day or two before trying the bidet again. In the mean time, continue to reintroduce the bidet, explore it, and ask them to try it after toileting.

After your family member is finished spraying their bottom, they can use toilet paper or a dry wash cloth to pat their bottom dry. If you’re using a bidet seat with an air dryer, ask your family member to remain seated for two minutes while their bottom is being dried.

Tips to Help a Person with Dementia Use the Bidet:

Going from toilet paper to a bidet can be a hard transition for some. Here are some pro tips to make this time easier for you and your family member!

  • Fill portable bidets with cool or warm water (NEVER cold or hot water). Older adults typically feel cold, especially in the winter. Warm water can make people feel more relaxed and warmer while cleaning their bottoms.
  • Have your family member aim the bidet’s water spray and select the water temperature and intensity. Start with the most gentle water flow and gradually increase the intensity to the level your family member finds comfortable.
  • Use bidet seats with limited options. It’s easier to learn and use bidet seats with fewer buttons and controls. If a bidet seat comes with a remote with a lot of buttons, place bump stickers or red tape on the buttons that your family member needs to use.
  • If the bidet seat has user presettings, set it up so your family member only has to use one button to turn the bidet on and off.
  • Use bidet seats with a remote control. They’re easier to use for people with back problems.
  • As much as possible, have your family member clean themself with no physical assistance from you. This maintains their dignity and privacy in the bathroom.
  • If you’re unsure your family member sprayed their bottom thoroughly, let them know that you’re checking to make sure they’re all the way cleaned before you help them.

Just remember, it’s okay to ask for professional help if you feel like it’s not working out! Your family member’s primary care provider can write a referral for an occupational therapist to help find the best toileting solution.

Did we answer your questions on how to help a person with dementia use a bidet?

Let’s Review!

Bidets are more effective at thoroughly cleaning a person’s bottom compared to toilet paper. It’s a great tool for caregivers to use because it makes it easier to take care of their family member.

To help your family member use a bidet, you need to:

  1. Introduce the bidet
  2. Allow time to explore the bidet
  3. Ask your family member to try the bidet
Maria Lindbergh Bio Dementia Map
Maria Lindbergh


ToiletTalk on Dementia MapMaria Lindbergh, MOT, OTR/L, ECHM
Toilet Talk

Toilet Talk offers bathroom solutions, financial resources, a blog, videos, a free newsletter, and an online course, “Hard Time Wiping? Let’s Talk A-booty It!”

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