Bidets are commonplace in bathrooms across Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, but this plumbing fixture has never really caught on in the United States. For some reason, Americans prefer to use toilet paper and wet wipes to cleanse themselves instead of water.
However, more and more people—myself included—are beginning to embrace the bidet. In fact, many seniors are finding that bidets offer a safer and more efficient method of freshening up after toileting.
Bidet Attachments vs. Freestanding Bidets
To clarify, I’m not talking about traditional freestanding bidets. They take up lots of bathroom space, and older users would likely have a great deal of trouble transferring from the toilet to straddling the bidet.
What I’ve found very helpful are toilet bidets. These devices simply attach to the existing toilet in your home and require no remodeling, plumbing work or additional floor space. Essentially, the attachment is a small wand underneath the toilet seat 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 try it. The Blue Bidet—now a feature on every toilet in my house—retails for just $37. There are countless models, each with different features on the market. Simpler electric models allow for adjustable water temperature and pressure, while so-called “intelligent” cleansing seats offer features like a nightlight function, a heated air dryer and remote-control access (at a hefty price).
When I installed my cheaper toilet bidet several years ago, I became an instant fan. As I age (and as my symptoms of Parkinson’s disease worsen), I am more and more disgruntled when I have to use a standard toilet and toilet tissue. After returning from a recent short trip, I told my housemates I had missed them almost as much as I had missed my bidet!
Bidets Help with Better Hygiene, Safer Toileting
“As people get older and frailer, it’s harder for them to do good personal hygiene, particularly if they have arthritis,” Dr. Mary Tinetti, Chief of Geriatrics at Yale School of Medicine, explained to New York Times blogger Paula Span via email. Maneuvering around to wipe and wash becomes surprisingly difficult for people as they age. In fact, attempting to do so can even lead to a dangerous fall from the toilet.
For many older adults, a bidet toilet could mean the difference between independence and needing assistance with toileting. Many seniors refuse help with personal care because it comes with a loss of privacy and often dignity. However, this can jeopardize their safety, and poor personal hygiene can lead to an increased risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs), skin breakdown and general irritation. Prompt and thorough cleansing of the genitals, perineum and anal areas after toileting is crucial for maintaining skin integrity, especially for elders living with incontinence. Bidets can provide a higher level of cleanliness, safety and modesty while toileting.
For caregivers who must assist with toileting and personal hygiene, bidets can help immensely with this delicate task. It may take some practice to get the hang of using a bidet seat or attachment, but it can be easier, cheaper, more hygienic and less awkward than assisting with toilet paper or wet wipes. Better yet, adequate cleansing after toileting can help maximize cleanliness between the shower or bath days that caregivers and seniors alike typically dread.
Explore toilet bidets and other senior assistive devices in AgingCare’s Senior Product Guide.
Sources: Begin the Bidet, The New York Times: The New Old Age blog (https://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/27/begin-the-bidet/); The Bidet's Revival, The Atlantic (https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/03/the-bidets-revival/555770/)