how do I protect wall-to-wall carpeting from dementia and incontinence?
July 28, 2021 8:26 AM   Subscribe

due to some fairly sudden and serious health concerns, my elderly in-laws have had to sell their house and move into a rental apartment. due to their compressed timeline and the current state of the housing market, the only apartment they could find comes with wall-to-wall carpeting. since the health issues in question include dementia and incontinence, we're trying to figure out how to prevent the carpeting from taking too much abuse.

apart from the obvious spot-cleaning of any accidents, the best solution we've come up with so far is a whole bunch of area rugs with plastic somehow affixed to the underside (?) but I'm wondering if the hive mind can come with any other suggestions for us. possibly irrelevant details: they'll be in a ~1200sqft 2BR/1BA unit with in-unit laundry, located 7-8 minutes from us by car.

(we are aware that the actual solution will probably involve a full-time health aide, or an assisted-living or memory-care facility; we are actively looking into these things already. I'm simply looking for a stop-gap solution at the moment.)

thanks for any help you can pass along!
posted by Old Kentucky Shark to Home & Garden (21 answers total)
I would be wary of rugs because they can be a trip hazard. Otherwise, I'm afraid I don't have any better suggestions than spot-cleaning and perhaps adult diapers?
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:33 AM on July 28, 2021 [10 favorites]

Definitely adult diapers (i.e. Depends) Is one of them clear-minded enough to be able to fit them onto both of them?
posted by Thorzdad at 8:35 AM on July 28, 2021 [3 favorites]

Ended up paying for a lot of carpet cleaning in dealing with this scenario until we moved the relative in question to memory care. Depends and the like don't work well with people who don't change them often enough and one of the issues with dementia is people not getting the signal that they need to go so it just happens. Washable or disposable chux pads for them to sit on may help for furniture but the single biggest thing is to get people to the toilet every hour or so and that's very hard without an aide. Good luck - am in the midst of this situation and it's just so hard.
posted by leslies at 8:39 AM on July 28, 2021 [3 favorites]

On a side note, do some research about the legal lifespan of apartment carpets in your area. After a certain length of time, usually between 5 and 10 years, a carpet will have to be replaced regardless of anything the current tenant has done to it. It is considered normal wear and tear and the tenant who lives there at the end of the carpet's lifespan should not be held liable. It varies by state, and I'm sure some states have no such protections. It won't solve your immediate problem but it might give you some peace of mind.

--Signed, someone who has destroyed every carpet in every home I've ever lived in
posted by SamanthaK at 9:00 AM on July 28, 2021 [6 favorites]

I'd say budget for it now. I remember reading somewhere (was it one of Nolo's landlord / renter guides?) that most places consider replacing carpets at 10 years, and installs are amortized such. You can ask for the cost of replacement and budget accordingly, depending on what wear level they're at at the moment. And have a rug cleaner on stand-by. :)

And definitely adult "Depends" and such.
posted by kschang at 9:08 AM on July 28, 2021

You might look into products designed for pets?
Here is something intended to be under a dog's playpen (larger so not as many rug edges to trip over; Amazon link).

Or I've seen these waterproof blankets/rugs advertised--large enough that they could be laid over couches/chairs?

I have not used either of these products, just an idea. Good luck.
posted by kochenta at 9:12 AM on July 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

Maybe modular dancefloor in the areas they're going to be spending most of their time? Not the cheapest solution, especially for the kind that resembles real flooring.

Ultimately it may be best to write off the security deposit in terms of staining over time and just worry more about keeping it livable?

For that I would suggest Bissel rug cleaner. Ideally the Big Green, which is basically a Rug Doctor, or one of their smaller ProHeat units.

I would then use it with an enzymatic carpet cleaner meant for pet cleanup (not necessarily Bissel's, despite all their FUD).

Installing Dancefloors over Carpet
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:13 AM on July 28, 2021

Or if looks don't matter, maybe the same idea but with large (or custom cut) exercise mats, or garage/patio/marine flooring (the rubber or plastic backed kind that comes on a roll) with the seams and edges taped down.
posted by snuffleupagus at 9:27 AM on July 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

Breaking a hip tripping on a rug or rubber matting is going to be so. much. worse. than losing the entire deposit to damages. (I get that's a very cavalier statement to make, but that doesn't make it incorrect.)
posted by DarlingBri at 9:41 AM on July 28, 2021 [9 favorites]

If you're a bit handy/willing to spend some cash on it, you could install cheap click vinyl flooring over the entire area. It floats over all that carpet and you should be able to remove it when needed.
posted by aggyface at 9:52 AM on July 28, 2021 [2 favorites]

You could try carpet stretch film like movers and painters use. Its not permanent so you may have to replace in high traffic areas. It is not slippery if you are barefoot or wearing shoes or slippers but can be slippery with non grip socks. If your parents wear non slip socks and are a fall risk this might not work. pluses though are that it is easy install, does not add a lip or bump like carpets or mats and is comparatively cheap.
posted by dstopps at 9:53 AM on July 28, 2021

Budget in professional carpet cleaners for the move out. Do not install anything that could be a trip hazard.
posted by tipsyBumblebee at 10:26 AM on July 28, 2021 [6 favorites]

Gently, if their lack of awareness of incontinence accidents is such that spot-cleaning the rugs isn't sufficient, then their lack of awareness is also very incompatible with your rug solution. They're a trip/slip hazard, as others have said, and realistically even if there's a plastic backing you're going to end up with urine pooled under the rug which will just be worse in the long run.

For reasons of hygiene and pleasant surroundings, I'd focus more on protecting furniture and (especially) mattresses. Get a waterproof mattress pad, washable bed and chair/sofa pads, and some disposable chux-type pads. Schedule weekly or monthly (depending on need) carpet cleaning, and spot-clean between. Those deodorizing carpet powders that you vaccuum up work pretty well on *dry* stained carpets, too.

If you're not too far away by car, maybe it's reasonable to stop by and remind them to go to the bathroom in the morning and evening. Getting someone on a bathroom schedule can be a huge help in lessening incontinence accidents.
posted by assenav at 10:28 AM on July 28, 2021

Look into some form of stain prevention spray or treatment that might help minimize any damage. Use enzyme cleaner to treat any spots very thoroughly; you can get a handheld rug cleaner. Budget for a really good carpet cleaning. I'm so sorry they're in such tough shape; thank you for being so good to them.
posted by theora55 at 10:36 AM on July 28, 2021 [1 favorite]

I would cover the wall to wall carpet with wall to wall vinyl flooring. The kind sold in rolls, not click laminate or tiles to prevent leakage.
If the vinyl covers wall to wall, and you place furniture in top it will keep flat without glue. You will need to fix it down at doors, depending on existing flooring screw or glue.
I did this in my mothers house, it stayed flat and cleaning was so much easier.
When she died last year, we rolled it up and tossed it.
posted by 15L06 at 11:13 AM on July 28, 2021 [4 favorites]

My inclination would also be vinyl flooring, because of the leak threat and trip hazard of anything smaller. In hallways and other narrow places you can use PVC carpet protector runner material, which I think you can normally get at hardware stores by the foot or yard.
posted by Lyn Never at 11:18 AM on July 28, 2021

Not what you asked, but adult diapers really only work If there is full time care, to manage change and cleaning the skin at changing, otherwise the risk of skin rashes and Open sores / damage in the diaper area is much to great. Old skin is very sensitive, similar to baby skin but drier, and needs the same care at a diaper change, especially if wrinkly... Especially if dementia ist an issue you also risk finding soiled diapers in unlikely places. You don't want to know how i know all this.
Rather get vinyl flooring.
posted by 15L06 at 11:29 AM on July 28, 2021 [4 favorites]

As part of a package of other interventions, would it be feasible to hire a cleaning service or rent the equipment to do a routine steam/deep cleaning with pet-care products at some reasonable interval? Routine cleaning also would probably help keep morale up for your in-laws, and stave off potential cleaning/organizational difficulties later on. If paying a service is possible, it also could take off some of the personal/emotional pressure that might come with doing it yourself.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 2:26 PM on July 28, 2021

Been there. 30 years ago my visiting mother tripped on a rug while being helpful in the unfamiliar kitchen, breaking her arm at the wrist. a) She was about the age I am now. b) better a wrist than a hip.
Am there. We've agreed to ban the phrase "adult diapers/nappies" when talking about my leaky, demented, grateful FiL's "pads". It gives him a fig-leaf of dignity about the not-so-great blooming buzzing [hearing aid woes] confusion that his life at 96.
posted by BobTheScientist at 2:27 PM on July 28, 2021

Response by poster: thank you all; this has been really useful. to address some of the things mentioned upthread:

- neither of the relatives use a walker or other mobility equipment and both are physically fit enough that tripping, while always a possibility, is probably not a huge issue at the moment. the point about the slip hazard of plastic-backed rugs is well-taken and not something we'd thought about.
- adult diapers are being worn, though as you might imagine it can be a battle sometimes to make sure they stay on and to make sure they don't cause other health issues themselves.
- dignity and quality of environment for the relatives is the primary concern, not ensuring we get a security deposit back when it's time to move out.

thank you all again so much for your answers and well-wishes.
posted by Old Kentucky Shark at 4:33 PM on July 28, 2021

Hope it's not too late to add, I suggest getting a large outdoor rug. They have some that basically look and feel just like indoor rugs, but are super easy to clean. 5+ years of kid poop, snot, rotten milk etc. and they clean up like new.
posted by Toddles at 9:36 PM on July 28, 2021

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