For many stroke survivors, regaining independence with self-care routines is a top priority. One such essential routine is our toileting activities. Although it might seem simple, post-stroke challenges can transform it into a significant hurdle. But with determination, the right toileting equipment, and a sprinkle of innovation, you can reclaim your bathroom independence.
Understanding the Challenges Post-Stroke
Every stroke survivor experiences unique challenges and understanding them is pivotal. A few challenges you may face include:
Muscle weakness and lack of coordination: It's common to experience weakness, especially on one side. This can create strength and coordination challenges when sitting, standing, or reaching.
Balance issues: Even the simple act of standing up or sitting can become daunting with altered balance. This is particularly riskier when standing from lower-sitting toilets without support bars.
Sensation changes: post-stroke, some individuals report reduced sensitivity which can impact tasks like adjusting water temperature or ensuring cleanliness.
Cognitive challenges: Whether it's sequencing the tasks correctly or remembering to use aids, cognitive impairments can add a layer of complexity.
Here are 2 different types of toileting equipment to improve toileting independence for stroke survivors.
There are a few different categories for different toileting equipment for stroke survivors. These categories are wiping aids and bidets.
Toilet Aids for Wiping
Let's be honest—wiping can become a challenge post-stroke. But there's no need for awkward moments when the right aids are at hand. Toilet aids for wiping can be a cheap and quick option for some survivors who still have fair sitting balance.
Extended reach wipers: Elongated handles minimize the need for excessive bending and twisting, ensuring you maintain balance.
Tissue gripping devices: These are especially handy when hand strength is compromised. This tool allows for secure grip and control, making the process smoother. They are similar to extended-reach wipers but have an extra mechanism to compensate for weak grip strength if using your affected arm.
Benefits of Bidets
Sometimes, modern problems require modern solutions. The bidet is a game-changer for many stroke survivors. Many of my clients tell me it has been a difference between independent toileting and requiring assistance. There are a few options for bidets, but the high-quality bidets hook into the toilet's water line for higher pressure and can be installed at home.
Types of bidets: Standalone units offer a spa-like experience, while attachments are more discreet. Manual bidets require more work but can be helpful when the other two are too expensive or just not an option with a bathroom layout. All aim to ensure cleanliness without physical strain.
Factors to consider: Look for user-friendly controls, adjustable features, and gentle drying options. The more customizable, the better it caters to your unique needs.
Additional Equipment and Tips for Enhanced Safety
Small additions can make a world of difference. Here are a few more recommendations:
Portable urinals and bedpans: These can offer a temporary solution when mobility is particularly challenging. They're especially handy during nighttime or for those with severe mobility restrictions.
Bedside commodes: Some bathrooms just aren't accessible for stroke survivors. Or worse yet, the bathroom is only on the 2nd floor, and you are stuck on the first floor. Bedside commodes are an option for survivors who aren't safe getting into the bathroom.
Proper lighting: Ensure all areas are brightly lit, especially around the toilet and shower. Motion sensor lights can be a great addition for nighttime visits.
Setting up a regular bathroom routine: Predictability can be comforting. A routine ensures you're prepared, and it helps caregivers anticipate and assist when necessary.
Home Modifications: Creating a safe environment post-stroke isn't just about convenience—it's a lifesaver. I have an article reviewing home modification solutions for improving toileting safety and independence. This includes grab bars, toilet safety frames, and raised toilet seats. You can view that here.
Don't Give Up Hope!
Adapting to life after a stroke involves challenges, discoveries, and triumphs. While
bathroom routines might seem small, the confidence and independence gained from mastering them have far-reaching effects on overall self-confidence and recovery. With the right equipment, you may be able to get back to independently toileting sooner than later. Keep working hard. Every day brings a chance to triumph over a new challenge.