HOW TO: Make a Bathroom More Relaxing

How can you make a bathroom (called a “spa” in some communities) more relaxing and dementia-friendly? 

Rachael: Fights and bathing go hand-in-hand in dementia care. It’s one of the biggest challenges surrounding the care of a person with dementia. They don’t want to bathe, and you don’t know why. The good news is that most dementia behaviors result from some innate issue: fear, hunger, sadness, anxiety, boredom, etc., and once a caregiver finds the root of the issue, it can be solved.

When it comes to making a bathroom more dementia-friendly, you will want to look at a few things:

  • Temperature: is it warm enough?
  • Home-like environment: does it look like a hospital bathroom, or does it look like someone’s home?
  • Privacy: is there a shower curtain?
  • Noise: is there a CD player or radio for controlling the noise level in the bathroom?
  • Smell: is it clean? Are there shampoos and soaps that smell fresh?

Above is a photo of a communal bathroom in a community where I consulted. The bathroom was plain, hospital-like, and not very private. It lacked any comforting feel.


Above is a photo of the bathroom, and I’ve only made a few changes! I added three pieces of wall art, added a wicker basket for shampoos and soaps, and took away the shelving unit. These are simple fixes, but they make the room a lot more home-like! Below, you can also see that I’ve added a shower curtain (can you believe they didn’t have one?) and a CD player. The care staff told me that the CD player made the biggest difference: suddenly, residents were singing along while they showered!


Amanda: Rachael’s additions to the spa seem simple, but they do make a huge difference! I like to put myself in the residents’ shoes when designing a space. Think about the experience you receive when you go get a massage. You are led into a heated room with dimmed lighting, aromatherapy, and relaxing music. The colors are warm and inviting. Your privacy is respected. You feel relaxed and calm. Conversely, wouldn’t it be strange if the masseuse led you into a cold, echoing, sterile looking room and asked you to take off your clothes and lay on the table naked? Would it stress you out and feel a bit like punishment? Rachael’s list above helps avoid this and creates a comforting environment for the resident. I would include some nice fluffy towels or robes. Also, an overhead light with a dimmer so the room isn’t so blindingly bright.

We hope we’ve given you some ideas on how to create a better bathing environment. What design elements have you implemented that have been successful? Let us know in the comments!

-Rachael & Amanda