The Carer’s Guide to Bathing an Elderly or Disabled Person

Taking a refreshing shower or a relaxing bath is one of life’s simple pleasures – and one that many of us take for granted. However, for people living with disability and the elderly it can be an ordeal.

As well as representing a considerable physical challenge, the simple act of bathing often requires the assistance of a carer. Whether that involves help with balance issues or the need for assistance with the most basic of bathing requirements, people with mobility issues can be left feeling vulnerable and burdensome. But by adding a few innovative mobility aids to a bathroom, the process can be made a great deal more bearable for carer and patient alike.

Getting in a bath or shower

Many accidents happen during the process of stepping into a bath or shower, so some carefully placed hand rails are always a good idea. There are some simple designs available which are easy to clean and provide support exactly where it is needed. And for added convenience, they can be attached permanently to the wall or fixed to the side of a bathtub. For many immobility sufferers, the addition of such an aid is the difference between a private bath and one with the help of their carer.

Taking a shower

Elderly people and those living with disability are exposed to a range of potential hazards when doing something as simple as taking a shower. Remaining composed and balanced can be a difficult task for many people, and it can lead to slips and falls that have the potential to cause serious injury. However, by fitting a shower seat to the wall of a shower, a carer can provide a safer, more relaxing bathing experience. There are height-adjustable models available, as well as those with padded seating for added comfort.

Shower chairs are ideal if the shower or bathtub is used by other members of the family. Lightweight, easy to clean and collapsible, some models can be lifted in and out of position in a matter of seconds. The ETAC Swift shower chair, for instance, is made with a combination of aluminium and hard-wearing plastic, so it is lightweight yet capable of providing corrosion-free support. Armrests and backrests give the user an extra level of comfort, and its open design makes getting on and off the chair a simple process.

If a simpler and more portable solution is needed, a durable and lightweight shower stool may be more appropriate. They are extremely easy to assemble, and many of them fold away for convenient storage. Height-adjustable, hygienic and non-slip, they are perfect for people who have relatively mild mobility issues. There are also some heat-reflecting models that further enhance the showering experience for the user.

Helping a person to bathe with dignity

Regular communication is essential when helping the elderly and disabled to bathe. Every move should be explained in advance, so as not to shock the patient or take them by surprise. Carers should be asking questions throughout the process, which should be aimed at ascertaining whether the patient is comfortable with their general comfort, seating position and the temperature of the water.

Shower seats make the process of bathing easier and more enjoyable, but it is still important not to rush the process. Carers should avoid squeezing bathing time into a spare ten minutes, as this could lead to a rushed experience and a painful accident. A time should be chosen for bathing that is suitable to both the bather and the carer.

It is also vital that the patient is given as much privacy as their ailments allow. If a bather simply needs help to step into a shower or bath safely, the assistance should stop there. But if help is required with the actual process of bathing, the carer should try to make conversation in order to take some of the embarrassment and tension out of the experience.

Carers should have a thorough understanding of the bather’s mobility issues before the process of bathing commences. The route into the shower or bath should be planned in advance, and the necessary mobility aids should be put into position accordingly. Some patients will need a carer to support their weight completely, while others will simply need a little help with balance. Being aware of the bather’s specific ailments will allow carers to tailor the bathing experience according to the needs of the individual.

Shower chairs for elderly people and those living with disability can completely transform the bathing experience. They provide the support and stability that are vital to safety, and they can allow people to enjoy a bath or shower in relative privacy.