Fear of falling, fear of scalding and fear of flooding have been identified as the top three washroom anxieties affecting people living with dementia and this may lead to washroom avoidance and diminishing personal care. Unchallenged, a decline in personal care can have a detrimental effect on physical health and well-being, perhaps also manifesting in further withdrawal from activities and diminishing mental health.
These fears are not hard to understand. Many difficulties develop through ageing and can be wide-ranging and cumulative. General frailty, muscle weakness, obesity, degenerative conditions like osteoporosis and neuropathies can all reduce stability and mobility, and lead to a loss of confidence moving around. Sight loss also contributes - common visual impairments are diminishing colour and contrast sensitivity, depth perception, visual field and acuity. Dementia, Parkinson’s and other neuro-degenerative diseases are also increasingly common, and their progressive nature inflicts further complexity, again with mobility and stability, but also including memory loss, and language and communication difficulties. In combination, all these potential issues could have a significant effect on confidence, motivation and potential stress triggers, manifesting as a withdrawal from a variety of activities, including personal care and hygiene.
Avoidance of personal hygiene and grooming brings its own problems whilst exacerbating existing conditions; skin sensitivity or irritations and pressure sores are likely to become infected and painful. Recurring UTIs and associated incontinence are also familiar complaints. Often these combined conditions can develop into a vicious cycle of ill-health, diminishing self-esteem/motivation and declining mental health.
Improving a person’s personal care and hygiene is, perhaps, a viable means to mitigate such declines in quality of life. As such, let’s encourage and build confidence in the washroom, for both assisted and independent showering. In a small series of posts we will consider the top three washroom anxieties felt by people living with dementia, and explain how our product designs address these issues to encourage greater independence.
Fear of Falling - covered in a previous post
Fear of Scalding
As skin ages it become more sensitive and the risk of injury from burns (contact) or scalds (hot liquid) increases. Diminishing reaction times of the elderly (due to declining physical or mental agility) can also add to exposure time and injury severity. It is necessary, therefore, to ensure that showers and baths are protected by a healthcare standard thermostatic mixing valve (TMV), and approved to the TMV3 Scheme. TMVs automatically proportion the mix of hot and cold water, accommodating fluctuations in water supply pressures and temperatures, and delivering a constant mixed water temperature that is both safe and comfortable. The mixing valve offers temperature adjustment up to a safe pre-set maximum, but also features an important safety feature; if the cold water supply fails, the TMV automatically closes the hot water supply and prevents system temperature (usually around 60°C, and a significant scalding risk) hot water from discharging at the outlet.
The lever controls are uniquely inclusive; individually shaped with dissimilar rotations (1/4 turn on-off, 360° on temperature control), colours and markings for easier differentiation. The levers move with very low torque and are therefore exceptionally easy to operate, one-handed and also with a closed fist, leaving the other hand for additional support.
Our last post in this series will address the third fear, Fear of Flooding.