How to do it... Streamlining bath time

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Bathing can present a host of challenges, unforeseen mishaps and incidents that can easily disrupt daily routines. But choosing the right tools, creating a calming environment, careful advance preparations, and above all — respecting privacy and dignity — will go far in streamlining bath time. Experts explain how here.

1. Start by having the right technology and equipment. It begins with appropriately sized tubs and showers for the resident mix.

“A small tub is inadequate to meet the physical and cognitive profile of the resident mix,” says David Anderson, national sales manager for Apollo Bath. This results in staff having difficulty getting residents in and out of the tub and residents not enjoying a bath, he notes.

Right-sizing could save a typical facility staff up to 260 hours, he adds. Rapid-fill reservoirs can greatly shorten lags between baths, and ultraviolet water purification technology can speed the cleaning/disinfection process, he adds.

Bryan Johnson, president of MasterCare Patient Equipment Inc., suggests other time-saving features such as easy transfer, quick drain, closed loop disinfecting systems, heated hydro massage, and heated seats. Megan Multanen, chief sales officer for Bestbath, suggests engineered water containment systems to mitigate slippage and falls, easily accessible bathing tools and oversized shower stalls that can safely accommodate both the resident and bath attendant. 

2. Don't forsake a pleasing bathing environment just for efficiency's sake. A soothing experience will greatly quell resident anxiety and speed up the process.

“Consider small makeovers, such as new shower curtains, beach-inspired shelves and wicker hampers, plants and blow driers to make the experience as pleasant as possible,” says Rowena Sebastian, an RN for Windsor Healthcare.

“Make the area more ‘homey' and less institutionalized,” advises Christine Dunster, RN, BS, MA, clinical director for Next Health. Eliminate glaring fluorescent lighting, install calming background music and infuse the area with calming scents, she adds. 

Multanen believes a homelike atmosphere “can provide additional dignity to the bathing process. Choose finishes for grab bars, and tile patterns in the shower that mimic what the resident may have [had] in their own home.”

3. Pre-bath prep could actually speed up the process, according to Dunster. 

Consider “PRN” pain meds 30 minutes ahead of time for those residents who experience discomfort during bathing. Thin skin and lower metabolism can easily give some chills, so ensure the resident is covered fully with warmed blankets and towels before and after. 

Remind memory care residents what's coming far ahead of time.

Above all, respect residents' dignity and need for privacy. A combative bather can throw off an entire day's routine. Hooded, terry cloth robes and privacy curtains are a must, Dunster adds.

Instruct staff to be flexible with residents' desires for baths or showers, as well as when they begin and end, both Multanen and Sebastian assert. Allow them to customize their experience with things like automated seated shower options.

4. The hallmark of the most efficient bathing operations is consistency. Establish routines with conflict-free flow and soothing transitions.

“Having a structured bath chart allows staff to adequately prepare residents shortly before the bath so that when the tub or shower is ready, they can move right in,” observes Anderson. 

“Consistent assignment fosters trusting relationships between the elders and the care partners,” Sebastian adds. “Bathing is less stressful and embarrassing if a person who you trust is assisting you. Organizational structure must support consistent assignment.”

5. A well-trained staff is at the heart of bathing efficiency.

Anderson suggests training specialized bathing attendants who are not only well-equipped to handle unexpected surprises or schedule mishaps, but who also know how to use the tools without having to stop for help with troubleshooting. “They take ownership of the tub, and they are proficient, and that helps relax residents,” he adds.