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How do I help my elderly parent bathe?

For anyone with limited mobility, enjoying a bath and shower can be difficult. We asked Annette Greenwood of family business Bath-Knight, inventors of the belted bath-lift, for some tips on choosing and funding bathroom aids so that parents can continue to enjoy bathing with dignity and confidence.

Many elderly people struggle to bathe and sadly, it seems to start when there is a loss of confidence due to a slip or fall when trying to get in or out of the bath or shower. The first way to help your parent would be to find out if there is a problem and what exactly it is.

Your parent may not want to talk about something as private as bathing so approach the subject with a few tactful questions such as “Do you spend long relaxing in the bath or do you just shower at the moment?”

What are the many stages of aids to help with bathing in the home?

If your parent struggles with getting in or out of the bath or shower, something basic like handrails can provide added assistance.

The next stage of bathing would possibly be a bath lift. Bath lifts work by gently lowering and raising your parent out of the bath. Depending on the needs of your parent, there are a range of bath lifts available. There is the option of the belted bath-lift, which allows the user to sit right at the bottom of the bath and enjoy their bath as they always have. If your parent requires a little bit more support there is the option of a bath seat, which allows them to sit upright in the bath and have a wash.

If your parent has an issue with balance a walk-in bath which has a door providing easy access is another option to consider. Your parent just needs to step into the bath via a low threshold entrance. There are a range of walk-in baths available depending on your parent’s needs and preferences.

An alternative is a walk-in shower or wet room if your parent prefers taking a shower or if assistance with washing is required. Showers can be made to measure to fit your parent’s needs. A shower stool can also be used to allow your parent to sit down whilst showering. This is a good option if they struggle to stand for a prolonged period of time.

When does it stop being safe to bathe alone?

If and when mobility and balance starts to decline or a carer is needed for day-to-day activities, it may be time to see if bathing alone is still feasible. If your parent has had an accident in the bath or they have been struggling to get in and out then this too can make bathing alone unsafe.

Some people are never going to want carers or family involved in their personal hygiene. Are there ways that they can help themselves to feel clean without risk?

Some people may dismiss bathing completely and settle for a strip-down wash when really, a little help and confidence is all they need. It all depends on what stage they are at and their preferences. Lots of bathing devices are now remote controlled which means they don’t require any undignified lifting from carers or family members.

Hoists seem so undignified and uncomfortable. How can this process be managed well by carers and family?

Hoists are mainly used in hospitals, care homes and are for patients that are completely bedridden rather than those who just require a little bit of support. Care, empathy and respect are the only ways to manage this process.

What are the things you need to think about when planning a walk-in bath or a more accessible shower?

First, look at your parent’s needs and the difficulties they have now and what they may need in the future. Also be sure to check the layout of their bathroom as well as its size as this can affect the range of bath or shower choices available to your parent.

If it is a soak in the bath that they miss due to a problem such as arthritis, a bath lift or walk-in bath would be an option. If a shower is the only option then you can look into certain styles, sizes and accessories such as shower stools.

If they are tenants you would also need to check if your parent’s landlord or local authority is happy for the changes to be made to their home.

Are there grants available for bathroom aids? How can people find out about them if so?

Yes there are but it all depends on your parent’s area, circumstances and local authority.

If your parent owns their home, the best way forward is for them to visit their GP who can then refer them to an Occupational Therapist (OT). They can assess the situation, recommend a suitable solution and apply for funding.

If your parent’s home is part of a local housing association or council, then they should contact them first as they may be able to provide the changes needed. This usually means a bath will be removed and then replaced with a shower. They could even move your parent to more suitable accommodation.

Are there scammers out there offering bathroom aids and how can you detect them?

Unfortunately, fraud still exists in this day and age no matter what you are buying. You should always choose a trusted, well established company, do some research and look at their website. You can also ask for recommendations from carers, friends and family.

One security step to take is to make sure a relative or friend is present with your parent when having a home demonstration.

If it is not possible for someone to be with your parent during their appointment, another measure to take would be to ask the representative to quote a password that would have been arranged over the phone. This is so your parent will know that they are answering the door to the right person.

Any tips on making bathing a more pleasurable experience as well as just a necessary one?

Yes, of course! Relaxing in the bath is important. There are essential oils and bath salts your parent can use as little extras to get the most out of bathing as well as exercises they can do while in the bath to improve circulation and completely relax. Hydrotherapy is also good for people who suffer with arthritic aches and pains.

The Bath-Knight bath lift was invented in 1989 by Bill Steadman to bring confidence and enjoyment back to bathing for the elderly and less mobile. Visit Bath-Knight’s website to request a copy of their Bathing for Therapy booklet produced with an occupational therapist, and request a free brochure to find out which aids will help your parent remain independent for longer.

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