Tips for Washing, Grooming, and Going to the Bathroom with Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease can interfere with every aspect of life, including things as simple as using the restroom and going about daily grooming. Here are some tips to help you stay safe and comfortable in your personal care routine:

Going to the bathroom

  • Avoid caffeine. Coffee, tea and caffeinated sodas all can have a diuretic effect, which can make you urinate more frequently.
  • Try going to the bathroom regularly, even scheduled (i.e. every two hours or before meals).
  • About two hours before bedtime, begin to reduce and limit your fluid intake. This can help reduce bathroom use in the middle of the night.
  • If you find that you’re having accidents, use incontinence pads or underwear. These can be found in most drugstores, and sometimes can be covered by your health insurance.
  • Toilet bars, grab frames and elevated toilet seats can improve stability when sitting on and standing up from the toilet.1,2
  • If you can afford a bidet, it can be a huge help with maintaining cleanliness. Good bidets should have a water spray and a dryer, which can make after-toilet care easier.3
  • Use a nightlight, or keep your bathroom light on if you have to use the toilet frequently at night.1,2
  • Keep a bell in the bathroom, so you can signal if you need help.3
  • Know the signs and symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI). If you start to experience an increase in frequency or urgency, especially if these are accompanied with burning or pain, contact your physician right away. These are signs that you may need antibiotics.1,2
  • If urinary frequency or incontinence becomes an issue, make an appointment with a urologist. There are treatments and medications available to help.1,2

Tips for bathing

  • Install at least two handrails. This should be done by a professional to ensure proper placement and support. Don’t use towel bars, faucets or soap dishes for support!
  • Use a non-slip rubber mat in your shower and/or bathtub areas, and a rubber backed bathmat for outside the tub.
  • Lower the maximum water temperature on your water heater to 120 degrees. This will prevent burns in case of a fall.1,2
  • Install a tub rail support or a bench in bathtubs. If you have access to a stall shower instead of a tub, it is a much safer and easier to use.
  • Soap can be tricky! Soap on a rope, a bar of soap in a pair of nylons, or liquid pump soaps can be much easier to handle.1,2
  • Consider installing a shelf in the shower so you don’t have to bend over to get your bathing supplies. This shelf should be between knee and shoulder height.1,2
  • Always have a cordless phone, cell phone or medical alert device in the bathroom with you when showering, especially if you’re showering when no one else is home.

Tips for grooming

  • Invest in an electric toothbrush and razor. These products are not only easier to use, but they may actually be safer.
  • If you’re brushing your teeth, shaving, putting on makeup or using a hair dryer, sit down. This will make you more steady and can conserve energy.
  • Prop your elbows on the sink or a counter when you are grooming. This will reduce tension in your neck and shoulders, and may help you stay steadier when grooming.
  • If you use a hair dryer, look for a hands-free hair dryer stand. These can attach to a vanity, or can be floor mounted. This can make hair drying much easier.

Lastly, don’t be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help, especially if you notice that tasks are getting more difficult than they once were. There are many ways that those around you can help you, while allowing you to retain your independence.

Consult with your medical team to figure out if occupational therapy or home health are options that may be valid for your needs. Know that your needs will change over time, so this should be an open discussion that should be revisited on a regular basis.

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