Article - Bathing Options For Caregivers
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Bathing is a daily activity most of us can handle by ourselves. But when an adult cannot bathe by himself, the help of a caregiver is needed.
At first it might be help getting into and out of the tub. After a while it might involve the full activity of undressing, washing and dressing again.
Bathing is a very physically challenging caregiving task, fraught with opportunities for injuries to both the bather and the caregiver. Care needs to be taken so that everyone remains safe.
Because of the intimate nature of bathing, a caregiver's participation in the activity can provide the comfort of another person's touch as well as an opportunity for monitoring changes in the condition of the skin. But the introduction of another person into the bathing routine can also cause embarrassment and a sense of lost independence.
In order to keep bathing as comfortable as possible, assess the bather's needs, the caregiver's needs and the environment before selecting from all the bathing options available. (You may want to include an Occupational Therapist in this exercise.) For example:
What is the level of assistance needed?
What are the bather's personal preferences?
What is his/her reaction to requiring assistance?
Does the bather use a wheelchair?
Is there a transfer mechanism that will not be a strain on you, the caregiver?
Could the activity be too exhausting for the bather? For the caregiver?
Is there a bath or shower available? Is there a step to the shower? Something to hold on to in the bath? (We highly recommend Grab Bars.)
(For a thorough assessment template, see the Bathroom Assessment on the Home Assessment Surveys page.)
Once you have completed the assessment, review the available bathing alternatives below. Included are potential aids that make the task easier on both the bather and the caregiver. The appropriate choice might be a combination of alternatives or variations on a theme. Don't be afraid to adapt the alternative, or the routine, to best suit the situation.
Does the bather need to sit, but cannot get to the floor of the tub?
Bath chairs and bath transfer chairs have a seat above the water. The difference between the two is that the transfer chair is longer than the chair, spanning over the edge of the tub, making it easier for someone who who has a problem getting over the edge of the tub.
If the bather cannot squat in the tub, but likes to soak, a bath lift takes the bather to the floor of the tub to soak, and then lifts them out again without any strain on a caregiver.
A patient lift or ceiling track lift (somewhat more medical alternatives) have seats or straps the bather sits in. The lift can be used for toileting or bathing.
If seated on a chair or standing in the tub, a handheld shower helps you direct water where you need it.
Handheld showers help you direct water where you need it. Some come with their own holders, some are combined with a holder on a Grab Bar.
Need to sit?
A curbless shower is desirable if a mobility aid is used and/or it is difficult to get over a shower edge. In this situation you could transfer to a wall mounted seat, or a roll-in shower seat might be helpful.
For Sink Bathing:
A sink bath is an alternative that includes a sponge/washcloth bath in the bathroom while sitting on the toilet, on a bath chair or in a wheelchair.
For Bed Bathing:
If the bather cannot get to a bath, shower or sink, you can bring the water to them in bed.
Hair can be washed by using the EZ-Shower, a heavy duty portable water reservoir that can hang on a bedpost or I.V. pole, and the EZ Shampoo portable wash basin.
The EZ Bathe™ inflatable bathtub is the solution for someone who needs to soak, but cannot get to a tub.
For Bathing Without Water:
If handling water in the bathroom is impossible and bringing it to the bedside is also too difficult, there is the No-Rinse Shampoo commonly used by campers. You put it on the hair, wash and towel dry. It even comes in a convenient Shampoo Cap!
And for washing, the No-Rinse Bathing Wipes are large towelettes that were designed to leave the skin clean and moisturized.
You might choose to vary between the above options to keep the physical demands on the caregiver down while encouraging independence. For example, shower today, Bath Wipes in bed tomorrow. Keep it simple, keep it pleasant, make it easier!
© Copyright 2010 Dynamic Living, Inc.
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