How can I help my mother-in-law find the bathroom in the day time?

5 answers | Last updated: Sep 29, 2016
Peggy kandle asked...

My 91 y.o. mother-in-law lives with us. I quit working to take care of her. Her dementia was caused by strokes, but is progressing. She finds the bathroom by herself at night, but doesn't know where to go during the day. How can I help her know where the bathroom is during the day.

Expert Answers

A social worker and geriatric consultant who specializes in dementia care, Joyce Simard is based in Land O' Lakes, Florida, and in Prague. She is a well-known speaker and has written two books, one focusing on end-of-life care and the other, entitled The Magic Tape Recorder, explaining aging, memory loss, and how children can be helpers to their elders.

Finding the bathroom when you have memory loss is not uncommon and as with many "interesting" situations that occur with people who have dementia, there is almost never one answer to solve a concern. Here are a few ideas I came up with:

  1. Place a large sign of a toilet on both sides of the door
  2. Keep the door open so she can see the toilet
  3. Place a commode somewhere else in the house so she has an option of using more than one place when she has to use the toilet
  4. Remind her at least every two hours that it is time to use the toilet.

Hopefully other readers will give you more options. You are quite a wonderful daughter-in-law to give up work to care for her. She is blessed to have you.

Community Answers

Deen reilly answered...

I use blue painter's tape to make a path on the floor. It pulls up without damage, so if company is coming and I don't want it there, I just pull it up and put down more later.

Daughter #1 answered...

I always leave the night light on in the bathroom.

Gaommind answered...

How is her vision? during the day the lights can blur and disorient, along with the wonderful suggestions above, try putting on a pair of glasses to make yourself visually impaired and then walk the path of the bathroom from places she usually frequents during the day, are there visual cues all the way down that path, especially around the corners like arrows on the wall or a light at the end of the pathway? Is she often distracted by things on the way there? All little things can disorient the short-term memory impairments that often make them lose their way. Calm colors with bold markers, or things along the way to make her know she is going the right way. I'd walk it with her until she can learn the way, the schedule and routines are helpful. I'd like to know what works.

Mlk63105 answered...

You can use an accent tape on the floor, but it will hold better on the wall. Try placing it above the base and direct it towards the bathroom. Either outline the door frame in the same color or paint it an accent color.

If this problem occurs at night, use an irridescent tape or a eco-glo metal trim strip in the same way. Otherwise add sensor devices to light switches so they go on automatically when someone enters a new space. It's much safer for someone with a walker or in a wheelchair. They only need to focus on where they are going.