Maintaining hygiene through bathing or showering is an activity of daily living that with aging or disability can present a significant problem for many people. Logistically getting into or out of a bath; or stepping into as well as standing in the shower can be problematic. Add to this, individual preferences regarding whether to bathe or shower and the issue of maintaining independence and dignity it is clear that this is an important consideration for many people. There are many different aids and home adaptions available, although the suitability of these varies depending on individual circumstances. This is where a qualified Occupational Therapist can offer advice.
Difficulties Around Bathing And Showering
Taking a daily bath or shower is an act that the majority of people take for granted and do with minimal conscious thought. However, for some people, notably those with physical disabilities and as part of the aging process, bathing can be challenging. Whether taking a bath or a shower is preferred both of these require good all-round strength, balance and joint movement. This ability to move well affects the following aspects of bathing/ showering:
- Getting into or out of a bath
- Stepping into a shower
- Standing in a shower
- Sitting comfortably in a bath
- Risk of slipping
- Movement and flexibility required to wash all areas of the body
Initially, upon starting to struggle the temptation to reduce frequency of washing can occur. Many families try to solve these issues themselves, with varying levels of success. Some families provide physical assistance with the task of daily hygiene. Others opt to purchase equipment, or even have costly adaptations such as step-in showers installed as opposed to keeping the traditional bathtub. However, enlisting the services offered by an Occupational Therapist would be a better option.
Why Consult an Occupational Therapist for Bathing Difficulties?
Starting to have difficulties with activities of daily living, can be not only physically challenging but also psychologically upsetting, for both the person that is struggling and their family. Often a relative will take over or offer assistance with the task, which is a kindly gesture that is usually well meant. However, it does present the risk of reduced independence and reduced dignity for the person requiring help with bathing that may have an even greater effect on their mental health wellbeing.
Another alternative, for families is to invest in equipment or home adaptations to assist with bathing or showering. However, without the professional input of an Occupational Therapist these strategies often only work for a short period of time. Progressive deterioration in the person’s condition, or poor choice of equipment in the first place can affect how successful these tactics are, which can be a costly mistake particularly in terms of major bathroom renovations. For example, step-in showers are a common adaptation that fall short in meeting requirements.
Issues With Step In Showers
Step-in shower bathroom adaptations are often seen as a go-to for those struggling to access a bath. However, in reality and with expert OT knowledge this can often be the most unsuitable choice for a large number of people for the following reasons:
- Increasing frailty or mobility means that negotiating the step into the shower can become a major challenge.
- Full height doors limit access for someone to assist so leave them open, which results in flooding the bathroom.
- Limited options to position grab rails due to layout/ position of shower unit and doors.
- The shower size is too small.
Sadly, many people spend large amounts of money on a step-in shower but are left no better off than they were with a bath – if not worse, as at least with a bath there is various equipment options to explore. Step in showers tend to be the most limited in having simple solutions.
Occupational Therapists are highly trained individuals with expert knowledge on many conditions, and how to help people maintain their independence with activities of daily living for as long as possible. OT’s have an in-depth knowledge of many different types of equipment, who they are suitable for and in what circumstances. Asking for an Occupational Therapy assessment should be the first step for anyone who is, or has a family member, that is struggling to bath or shower.
Occupational Therapy Assessment for Bathing/Showering
Choosing to get an Occupational Therapy assessment can make a huge difference to the longer-term physical and mental wellbeing of the individual that is struggling with the daily task of washing. An Occupational Therapist will conduct a holistic assessment to ensure that their recommendations are right for each individual, there is not a one-size fits all approach. Some considerations would be as follows:
- Individual health concerns
- What exactly the person is struggling with
- Individual preference to bathe or shower
- Home set-up including who they live with, bathroom facilities and layout
- Eligibility for funding/equipment/adaptations
Following on from an assessment, recommendations can be made regarding a suitable way forward. There is a huge range of equipment available; and choosing the right equipment or adaptations in the first instance, can help to prevent a worsening of the situation and promote longer-term independence for the individual. Some options may include:
- Equipment to support the stepping over the side of the bath
- Equipment to be able to sit on and use the over bath shower
- Equipment to support submerging into the bath
- Specialist baths
- Step in showers
- Walk in showers
- Why Choose ACG Occupational Therapy For Assessment?
Why Choose ACG Occupational Therapy For Assessment?
Occupational Therapy is a specialist service, you can access an OT if your GP or hospital consultant refers you. However, there are strict criteria to meet when using a statutory service, only specific equipment or adaptations are considered as agreed by the local health authority, and there may be lengthy waiting lists before assessment is offered.
Choosing a private Occupational Therapy service such as ACG Occupational Therapy has many benefits including:
- Faster assessment
- Holistic, patient centred individualised assessment
- Full range of recommendations available
- Equipment demonstrations
- Potential money saving on getting the right equipment/adaptations in the first instance.
Booking an assessment with ACG Occupational Therapy is easy, contact us today to discuss your requirements, book an appointment or to find out whether an OT assessment would be able to assist you or your family member.