August 31, 2017

Here's What Has Helped Me -- My Bidets

Note: People keep telling me I'm doing exceptionally well for someone 
my age (88) who has had Parkinson's disease as long as I have (10 years). 
So I'm doing a series of posts recounting some of the things that have 
helped me deal with aging and Parkinson's disease.
But remember that my Parkinson's disease might more accurately be called  John Schappi's disease Parkinson's is a very idiosyncratic disease. So what works for me might not help others.

We'll start at the end.

This is the toilet/bidet in the upstairs guest bathroom. There are similar installations in my bedroom bathroom upstairs and in the laundry room bathroom in the guest quarters.

The modifications were relatively easy (for my home contractor) and inexpensive (for me). I'll get back to the details later. But first, a few comments on bidets in general.

Bidets in U.S. and Elsewhere
Bidets are fixtures in bathrooms the world over, but they haven't really caught on in the U.S. Instead of washing with water after relieving themselves, 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.

Americans use almost 8,000,000 tons of toilet paper each year. Eight million tons! And the bleaching process -- we like white toilet paper -- creates cancer-causing chemicals.

Hygiene after defecating is something most of us prefer to handle privately and independently. But the process can become a difficult challenge -- physically and emotionally -- for many elderly or disabled seniors.

"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" to wipe or wash themselves effectively. They can even fall from the toilet.

With all their hard, wet surfaces, bathrooms are dangerous places for people with poor mobility and balance.

European Freestanding Bidets
In Europe, bidets are usually freestanding fixtures, located near -- but separate from-- the toilet. Here's a photo I took last year in the bathroom of the apartment we rented in the Tuscan town of Corona:

For the elderly -- and certainly for this old man -- a freestanding bidet like this one just wouldn't be used. Having to move from toilet to bidet is annoying, and dangerous for seniors.

Bidets are also expensive -- about $3,000 including installation. Small bathrooms wouldn't even have space for a separate bidet.

U.S. Toilet Bidet Attachment
Here's the inexpensive American-manufactured bidet attachment I've added to the three bathrooms in my house:

Amazon currently sells this Blue Bidet attachment for $61.75. And it would arrive tomorrow.

I asked my contractor Steve to add the handles (shown in the picture at the top of this post) when he installed the bidet attachment. The handles provide an added sense of security when I sit down and get up.

They also raise the height of the toilet seat, which makes it easier and more comfortable. For a guide to help you determine the best toilet height for you, click here.

For older folks, a toilet bidet could mean the difference between independence and dependence on others for help. Toilet bidets are easy to use, inexpensive, hygienic, gentle on the skin, and good for the environment.

Like it or not, most of us are going to spend a lot of time sitting on toilets. So get off your duff and get a toilet bidet attachment.

And if you do, don't do what I did initially. I'd raise up my haunches to insert my hand from the side, splashing water on the floor. With a bidet attachment, put your hand between your legs for cleaning.

Now, where else are you going to get practical advice like this? Which reminds me -- despite all my talk about saving paper, I often finish by using one sheet from the package of baby wipes I keep next to the toilet.


Jim Contreras said...

Definitely adding bidets. Thanks for the info. Jim

Florence said...

I don't think I have ever commented on your blog before but I have checked in periodically for years. Your post on bidets was amazingly well timed for me. I never thought of a bidet but the add-on bidet may be exactly what I need. Thank you!!