By John Schappi
The bidet is a fixture in bathrooms the world over, but it has never really caught on in the U.S. Instead of washing with water after relieving ourselves, Americans would rather deforest millions of acres in order to produce toilet paper.
We think bidets are too European, too Parisian. We suspect they have something to do with s-e-x.
But more and more people—myself included—are beginning to tout the bidet as a safer, more effective way for seniors to clean themselves.
All bidets are not created equal
We’re not talking about traditional free-standing bidets. They take up lots of bathroom space, and older users could have trouble mounting them.
What I’ve found very helpful are toilet bidets. These provide an under seat wand that moves into position and sprays water over the perineal area.
I don’t remember how I first learned about toilet bidets. But when I found a cheap one that could be easily installed on my toilet without major plumbing expense, I decided to give it a try.
The Blue Bidet—now a feature on all the toilets in my house—retails for just $37.12. Kohler, the largest U.S. manufacturer of bidets, has one model that costs over $1,000…and another (with a remote control!) goes for about $2,000, plus installation fees.
When I installed my cheaper toilet bidet several years ago, I became an instant fan. As I age—and as my Parkinson's infirmities increase—I am more and more disgruntled when I have to use a standard toilet.
Better than friendship
After returning from a recent short trip, I told my housemates I had missed them almost as much as I had missed my bidet.
"As people get older and frailer, it's harder for them to do good personal hygiene, particularly if they have arthritis," said Dr. Mary Tinetti, chief of geriatrics at Yale Medical School. "They can't maneuver around" to wipe or wash themselves effectively. In their attempts, they can even fall from the toilet.
With all their hard, wet services, bathrooms are dangerous places for people with poor mobility and balance.
For older adults, a bidet toilet could mean the difference between independence and dependence upon help. Toilet bidets are easy to use, hygienic, gentle on the skin, and good for the environment.
Americans use almost 8,000,000 tons of toilet paper every year. Eight million tons! And the process to bleach toilet paper white creates cancer-causing chemicals that enter the air, soil, food chain, and waterways.
Time to get off your butt and buy a toilet bidet.