Elder flushing inappropriate objects down toilet?
May 30, 2016 7:15 PM   Subscribe

Can anyone suggest mechanisms to stop an elderly person from flushing inappropriate objects down the toilet? Like, I dunno, a toilet lid that only opens up when you sit on it? Or some DIY thing? (He needs support while walking and transferring, so there'll be another human around when he goes.)

My grandfather has recently had a significant decrease in health. He's being taken care of by my grandmother and my parents/aunts/uncles. Right now, he's transitioning from a medical facility to my parents' house, where they and some hired assistants will take care of him for the short term while they figure out the best long term option.

This inappropriate-objects-in-the-toilet thing is just one random annoyance that my mom happened to mention in an email update. (I live far away from my parents and am experiencing all this remotely.) And it seemed like just the sort of random mechanistic thing Mefites might be good at, so I'd love to hear some suggestions to pass on to my mom.
posted by Alioth to Health & Fitness (10 answers total)
I'm not sure I understand- he needs help to actually use the loo, but is mobile enough to sneak in there and flush random things when no one is around?
posted by vrakatar at 7:22 PM on May 30, 2016 [4 favorites]

Would a baby-proof latch suffice? Ours requires significant dexterity and often defeats adult guests if we forget to disarm it.
posted by teremala at 7:23 PM on May 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would remove non appropriate items from the toilet area/ check his hands and pockets before he's taken to the bathroom.
posted by brujita at 7:44 PM on May 30, 2016

Best answer: I'm also a bit confused by the situation described, but: could you remove the toilet handle or detach the chain so that the toilet can't be flushed without knowing how to do it? You might still end up with inappropriate objects in the toilet bowl, but at least they wouldn't go down the drain.
posted by Johnny Assay at 8:06 PM on May 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yeah, I'm actually not sure whether he's putting objects in the toilet while going to the toilet, or at other random times. I'll have to clarify with my mom. In the meantime, I found a discussion thread (ctrl-F for "kabeeena") that echoes teremala's and Johnny Assay's suggestions. If he can't flush by himself, someone cogent can check it when they flush for him. Then... I guess, fish it out with rubber gloves or a plastic bag or something?
posted by Alioth at 9:15 PM on May 30, 2016 [1 favorite]

Bungee cord around the closed lid? A very heavy lid? Lock the bathroom when he's not in it? A small fake toilet somewhere else that he'll encounter before he gets to the real one?

I'd also try to figure out what need this meets and another way to meey it. Maybe he likes the sound of flushing. It sounds and feels final, like you've accomplished something.
posted by ramenopres at 9:23 PM on May 30, 2016

Best answer: I'd guess it is more about getting rid of things. An anti-hoarding compulsion.
posted by vrakatar at 9:33 PM on May 30, 2016

Best answer: For an elderly person I'd suggest not having a solution which could put even a few second's delay in accessing the toilet, such as a locked door or lid. It risks becoming a recipe for undignified toilet accidents even with a carer on hand. Doing something about the flushing mechanism as Johnny Assay suggests would be preferable, even if it means things might have to be fished out of a soiled toilet bowl.

Similarly, I wouldn't recommend a dummy toilet - if he suffer further cognitive decline there is a risk he'll insist that that's his actual toilet and that he should use it as such.

I agree that getting rid of things for good may be why he chucks things into the toilet. You might get lucky with something else which conveys finality to him, such as a lidded garbage can.
posted by tavegyl at 1:50 AM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

That sort of behavior sounds an awful lot like some form of dementia setting-in.

Anyway...Unless someone is going to stand there and monitor him to make sure he doesn't put something in the toilet, I can't think of a workable solution other than to, somehow, rig the toilet so he can't flush it, and then have someone check the bowl for items, and then flush it. I know that sounds pretty *ew* but, home health nurses deal with a lot of nasty stuff.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:03 PM on May 31, 2016

Response by poster: After chatting with my mom this evening, some more clarity: my grandfather seems to mostly be motivated by wanting to throw something away and the trash can isn't immediately, glaringly obvious. Like a plastic wrapper or a wet-wipe that he's just used, and the trash can is around the corner of the vanity or something.

Thanks for all the suggestions! I've passed this on to my mom and she can work with the in-home care nurses to find the best way.
posted by Alioth at 10:45 PM on May 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

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