Jan Slot is a believer. So is fellow resident services director Nancy Ayers.
The two run the twin campuses of Clark Retirement Communities, a 100 year-old, nonprofit senior living care provider that serves approximately 500 residents in the Grand Rapids, Mich., area.
The two directors and their respective staff recently participated in an independent study led by Dr. Amy Wagenfeld, assistant professor at Western Michigan University’s Occupational Therapy Department. The study examined the impact of toileting technology on older adults’ quality of life and its role in extending independent living.
Independence and Dignity
The focus of the study promises may “help seniors maintain independence and not rely on caregivers for toileting,” says Slot, a licensed practical nurse. “Who wants to move? They want to stay in their home. I don’t know if you can put a dollar-value on that.”
Ayers agrees. “Clark isn’t afraid to try new things to meet the needs of our residents,” she says. “This project is an example of that. What we learned is now in our toolbox of offerings. It will always be a point of discussion.”
The “it” is TOTO’s WASHLET, an electronic bidet seat that has long been used across Europe and Asia to gently cleanse and maintain hygiene without paper waste. Seniors with mobility issues often find they can benefit from its hands-free function.
Wagenfeld teamed up with Clark to install 10 WASHLET units in assisted-living apartments and with the assistance of three occupational therapy graduate student assistants, conducted the research study. The findings of the study are now pending before a peer-reviewed journal, according to Wagenfeld.
However, that publication embargo doesn’t prevent Slot and Ayers from sharing their first-hand observations.
“One couple became very accustomed to their WASHLET,” Slot says. “So much so, they wanted one when they moved to Florida and asked us about how to get one. They saw a huge value in it.”
The Clark staff have become WASHLET fans too. They’ve seen how it can eliminate a concern for many older couples, as one spouse may be asked to serve as a caregiver for toileting needs. That newfound independence may be a key factor in delaying a transition to a higher, more costly level of care.
The Clark directors also observed another important benefit, one that wasn’t part of the study’s lifestyle focus: a reduction in urinary tract infections (UTI).
“A husband and wife in one of our townhomes swear by their WASHLET. The wife used to have chronic UTIs. She is not going to the hospital nearly as frequently, which they attribute solely to WASHLET,” Ayers says.
Wagenfeld’s observations led her to understand how WASHLET may serve an older adult population and the caregivers who support them. “Being able to maintain the highest level of independence is critical. It is all about maintaining dignity—it’s important physiologically, emotionally, and psychologically,” she states. To learn more, visit here.