Scrub-a-dub-dub

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Scrub-a-dub-dub
Scrub-a-dub-dub

Despite the trend toward furnishing each senior living resident with a private bath, centralized bathing areas remain a viable part of the community and can even serve as an attraction for new residents. Equipped with whirlpool tubs, pleasant sensory ambience and a sympathetic support staff, a communal bathing area can take on the look and feel of an upscale spa.

Private baths have become more prevalent in senior living, especially in new communities, to give residents who dislike communal bathing a different option. Yet, as Mark Godfrey points out, the centralized bathing area continues to serve an essential purpose.

“Private baths and showers are not a replacement for a centralized bath and spa room – each meets different needs and expectations of residents,” says Godfrey, vice president of business development for Apollo Corp. “Private baths address the hygiene needs of residents who are largely ambulatory and able to effectively bathe themselves. But many residents require assistance in bathing or must be fully bathed by an aide. They require a bathing spa that provides safe and dignified transfer into the tub.”

Submersion in the warm, soapy water of a whirlpool tub provides maximum hygiene while augmenting the caregiver's job of washing the entire body, Godfrey says.

“Bathing in a whirlpool tub also provides a far superior experience over assisted showering,” he says. “Imagine yourself sitting naked in a plastic chair while someone washes your entire exposed body and hoses you down with a shower wand. Submersion bathing provides a level of privacy and dignity for the resident, and the provider can create competitive advantage by offering periodic spa bathing rather than just a ‘scrub down.'”

Private baths also can be unsafe for caregivers while providing an incomplete bathing experience, Godfrey says.

“For many aides, giving a shower to another person can be an awkward experience, and the quality of hygiene can suffer accordingly,” he says. “The floor in a private bath can also get wet and slippery, presenting a greater risk of the resident or bath aide falling.”

Conversely, in a whirlpool tub “the submerged resident is also mildly buoyant during the bath, aiding access to their backside and perineum with less risk of skin tears or bruising,” Godfrey says. “While there exists the perception that showering is faster than bathing, tubs equipped with reservoirs can fill in as little as 90 seconds after closing the door, and shampooing can be done during that time, resulting in no lost time.”

A SENSORY EXPERIENCE

The communal baths of old had a reputation for being bright, loud, cold and harsh. No wonder “bath time” commonly drew protests from residents, who felt vulnerable and afraid going through the unpleasant experience.

Contemporary spas are a welcoming place, with soft lighting, warm radiance and attentive staff to guide residents through a positive and fulfilling experience, says Mike Schwarzwalder, director of long-term care product strategy for Drive DeVilbiss.

“From a room-aesthetics perspective, you need to address each of the key senses of smell, sight, hearing and touch,” he says. “The room should be truly designed around the bathing experience instead of as a storage facility. It should be clean-looking and smelling, inviting, warm and quiet. Soft music and dimmable lighting will add to the residents' level of comfort and relaxation.”

From an equipment standpoint, Schwarzwalder says contemporary whirlpools in good working order are paramount for a positive experience. Easy entry and exit, comfortable temperatures, quiet jets and a smooth, clean surface all contribute to a soothing bath time for residents, he says.

To be sure, spa therapy with an air spa or whirlpool tub is a sought-after feature in many communities, agrees Kari Harbaugh, senior product consultant for Direct Supply. The main difference is that air spas are louder than whirlpools, so she recommends that noise levels be factored in when deciding.

Using bubble bath, bath salts and oils provides a luxurious element to bathing, with a scent such as lavender providing a soothing quality, Harbaugh says. She cautions, however, that salts and oils will clog some tubs. Others, such as the Therapure Pipeless tub from Invacare, do accommodate them, she says.

Warm, soft lighting counteracts the bright, cold tile impression of communal bathing areas, Harbaugh says. Additionally, “towel or blanket warmers make great additions to any spa room, and you should always consider the right mobility and transfer equipment to get resident to, into and out of the tub.”

Because bathing safety is a major concern, Michael Odum, senior after feature in many communities, agrees Kari Harbaugh, senior product consultant for Direct Supply. The main difference is that air spas are louder than whirlpools, so she recommends that noise levels be factored in when deciding.

Using bubble bath, bath salts and oils provides a luxurious element to bathing, with a scent such as lavender providing a soothing quality, Harbaugh says. She cautions, however, that salts and oils will clog some tubs. Others, such as the Therapure Pipeless tub from Invacare, do accommodate them, she says.

Warm, soft lighting counteracts the bright, cold tile impression of communal bathing areas, Harbaugh says. Additionally, “towel or blanket warmers make great additions to any spa room, and you should always consider the right mobility and transfer equipment to get resident to, into and out of the tub.”

Because bathing safety is a major concern, Michael Odum, senior marketing manager for Arjo, recommends ceiling lifts that don't require open legs for stability.

“Ceiling lifts are great for non-weightbearing residents to use in combination with bathing systems,” he says.

SHOW IT OFF

Bathing areas located in the bowels of a facility, reached by traveling through staff-only utility corridors, can send the wrong message to residents — that the area is being concealed and kept out of sight.

There is no reason for a centralized bathing area to be hidden, says Lee Penner, president of Penner Patient Care. In fact, locating it next to a rehab center or exercise area can give it an elevated, “club” kind of image, he says.

“In small communities, you could even make it accessible to the public,” Penner says. “It sends a positive message to the residents and the locals, too.”

In Focus

July 18

A truckload of charity

Gainesville, FL 

The Village at Gainesville recently donated a truckload of used appliances from its residences to the Bread of the Mighty Food Bank.

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