Beyond simply maintaining basic hygiene, proper bathing habits have some significant physical and emotional benefits. We’ve written before about the benefits of a warm bath; from improving sleep quality to reducing cold and flu symptoms, baths can do wonders for many conditions and both hot showers and cold showers have health and wellbeing benefits too.
Unfortunately, bathing and showering can be difficult or dangerous for people with injuries or reduced mobility with bathroom slips and falls being a top cause of injury in elderly people. Slippery surfaces are a danger in themselves, and traditional bathroom design exacerbates the risk of falling – steps, small spaces to navigate, deep baths and a lack of rails or supports all contribute to the increased risk of falls in the bathroom.
An NHS study showed that older people tend to use unsafe methods of getting in and out of baths and showers, such as towel bars or shower doors for support.These risks can have a detrimental effect on health and wellbeing. The fear of falling or slipping can deter people from bathing or showering as often or in the way they would like to – with some people avoiding washing in a bath or shower at all relying on sponge baths.
This study on older people’s perspectives on bathing illustrates that bathing is often of great personal significance for a variety of reasons, from social expectations;
“Bathing is important; if you want to be out in public or if you want to have friends you’d better be clean or they’re not going to hang around you too much.” to routine; “[Bathing] is just living, it’s routine, it’s like you eat 3 meals a day. You bathe, you get up….it’s a project every day. That’s the routine and that’s how we live, is keep on schedule.” to self-care and relaxation; “I love to sit in the tub and soak. Oh you sit there you relax, your whole body is soft…. and sometime you may fall asleep for a little while, yeah relax.”.
The study also demonstrates how important being able to bathe independently can be; “Oh golly no, I want to do it on my own. They can put bars all around me if they want to. I just have this deep feeling that it’s something I should be doing myself, you know and please let me always do it. It’s like if I have to accept help I’ll have to, but I certainly would go to most lengths not to.”.
It’s clear that bathing is meaningful to a lot of older people, and that there is a desire to be able to bathe independently for as long as is possible. Thankfully there are an increasing amount of products and adaptations available that make bathing easier and safer, to prolong the ability to independently maintain preferred bathing routines and habits. Here are our top picks…
Getting in and out of the bath can be very difficult for anyone with reduced mobility – it’s easy to underestimate the flexibility and upper body strength required for a task that’s routine to so many of us!
Bath lifts – like the Aquatech Orca from Invacare – are an innovative way to get around that difficulty. The seat moves up and down with just the push of a button on a waterproof handset and can support weight up to 22 stone. There are even inflatable bath cushions available which work on the same principle, but instead of a motor, the seat is made to rise by inflating and to sink by deflating.
These are a great, affordable alternative to an easy access/walk-in bath as they don’t require that the user sits waiting for the bath to fill or drain. They’re also portable, giving the user freedom to travel without worrying about accessible bath and shower facilities.
Tap turners are an example of a small thing that makes a big difference. The twisting motion required to turn a traditional tap puts a strain on the wrist and can cause pain and discomfort. For anyone with reduced grip (i.e. from arthritis or nerve conditions), it can be virtually impossible to twist a stiff tap.
Rather than investing in brand new taps, an inexpensive tap turner can make a world of difference in maintaining independence. These are available to fit all kinds of taps, with versions for derby taps, x taps and crystal taps. They’re also small and lightweight and therefore are easy to transport and use while travelling.
Grab rails are a bathroom essential for anyone with reduced mobility – as mentioned above, using inappropriate bathroom fixtures instead of grab rails that are designed to bear weight is a common factor in injuries and falls.
Holding onto a sturdy grab rail makes navigating the bathroom easier and safer, and these suction grab rails are especially handy – they do not require any drilling into the wall, making them ideal for temporary accommodation, rented property, or staying with friends or relatives.
The popularity of the bath-shower in the UK means that shower chairs and stools aren’t always a suitable option for people who need to sit down in the shower. The curve of most baths doesn’t leave enough flat surface for a stool to be stable.
Bath/shower boards rest on the bath’s edges and provide a strong, sturdy and stable surface to sit on and can be used either to take a seated shower, or to aid with getting in and out of the bath (the user can sit on the board and turn to ease in, rather than having to climb into the bath).
Pain, disability, reduced mobility and simply old age can all make it difficult to stretch to reach all parts of the body to wash. This can be particularly problematic for anyone who has skin issues and needs to use medicated washes or apply creams.
There is a huge range of long-handled products available that solve this issue – from moisturiser applicators to sponges, these simple tools make it possible to get to hard-to-reach areas without assistance.
Anti-slip strips are another example of a very simple product with a huge positive benefit. These are simply self-adhesive strips made from textured rubber, that add grip to the bath. They can be cut to size and used on any slippery surface to help prevent slips and falls.
At Snowdrop, we sell all of these plus many more products that make the bathroom easier to use and safer to access. We are also able to help you to plan, design and install accessible bathrooms – from supplying a grab rail to the complete design and installation of a level access shower. Everybody’s needs are different, so visit your local Snowdrop showroom for a free, no-obligation chat and assessment to find out how we can help.
Visit the bathroom section of our online shop here to browse our solutions.