Bathing Equipment at HAD
It is a very common experience to find bathing difficult because of illness or disability. Indeed, it is often the first area of daily life which becomes a problem as we get older. Fortunately, for this reason, there is a vast range of bathroom equipment available to help people. However, the sheer number of options available can make the choice somewhat bewildering and lead to people buying equipment which is unsuitable for their needs or to use equipment they purchase in an inappropriate way.
We at HAD believe that there is no real substitute for an assessment from a suitably qualified assessor. Bathing assessments are often available from the Health and Community Services department of the local authority and a self-referral is normally possible. Unfortunately, waiting lists for these assessments can be long and restricted by the implementation of eligibility criteria. If you are unable to obtain an assessment or unwilling to wait, it may be possible to obtain one at your local Assist UK Independent Living Centre. If you wish to decide for yourself what equipment to obtain, here are some questions you might like to ask yourself:
How will I manage to get into the bath?
Most people are used to stepping into the bath. If you have a disability this can be difficult or dangerous. Equipment such as bath and shower boards or powered bath lifts are designed to help remove some of this danger and difficulty by providing a secure base for sitting on before then lifting the legs into the bath. If you are able to do this, then this equipment may be appropriate for you. However, some people are not able to do this, commonly due to lower back pain or hip pain. If the bath side is very high for you, you may wish to consider using a bath step. Bath boards come in different lengths and it is important to get the correct one to fit your bath. You must have at lest 1.5” of available on each side of the bath for the board to be fitted safely.
If I can’t manage to sit and then lift my legs into the bath, what can I do?
If you are unable to do this but can still step into the bath, and you do not want to consider having the bath replaced with a shower, there are ways to make the process safer. You can still use bath lifts and bath seats by doing this, but you might want to use a grab rail to hold onto. A bath step can also be used to help you to step into the bath if the bath side is high for you.
If I can get into the bath but find it impossible to get back up out of the bath, what should I do?
What other activity would you do where you would lie on a wet, slippery floor and expect to get back up to a standing position? The answer is probably none! The answer to this problem may be to either use a bath seat, which means you don’t get right to the bottom of the bath or a battery operated bath lift. Bath seats come in different sizes, so the net question to ask if this is your choice is:
What height bath seat do I need?
Bath seats come in 6”, 8” and 12” varieties. The higher they are, the easier they are to get up from but the less you are able to get down into the water. Bath seats are often used in conjunction with bath boards as an equipment combination. The user first sits on the bath board, lifts their legs into the bath and then lowers themselves onto the seat which has been placed in front of the board. The procedure is reversed to get back out. This does require a reasonable amount of arm strength and is particularly difficult if shoulder or hand pain is a problem. It also has the unfortunate effect of shortening the usable length of the bath and can therefore result in a cramped bathing position.
Can I be sure that the equipment will fit my bath?
It is as important to make sure the equipment fits your bath as it is to fit you! Bath and shower boards must be of the correct length and have sufficient area at the side of the bath to fit safely. They can’t be fitted to some of the modern, highly “sculpted” baths. Bath seats use “suckers” to fix to the bottom of the bath. If the bath base is highly textured they may not stick to the bottom properly. If any equipment is loose or impossible to fit, it should not be used.
What other options do I have?
HAD provides a variety of battery operated bath lifts. These will lift you from the bottom of the bath so that you do not have to put any effort in yourself! However, we at HAD believe that an assessment is required for these and, as such, are unwilling to sell them without performing our own assessment. Please feel free to contact HAD to discuss these further and to get further information about the lifts we provide.
What other equipment might I consider?
You should always use a non slip when bathing. The mat should be in a good condition. They do wear out and should be replaced regularly. Also, some bath oils can make the bath slippery so please take this into consideration.
What if I am unable to use any bathing equipment?
If you are unable to use your bath with any standard equipment you will need a more major adaptation. This will inevitably be a costly process and a grant may be available to help (Disabled Facilities Grant). The options include a “walk in” bath (although these have their drawbacks) and replacing the bath altogether with a shower. In either case, HAD recommends that you seriously consider a referral to the Health and Community Service for further advice or that you contact either your local Independent Living Centre or HAD.
Is there anything else that may help me to keep clean?
HAD can also supply a range of long handled sponges and toe washers. Very useful if you are having problems reaching your feet or washing your back!