Bathing is one of the most basic human functions. Besides cleaning the body, it feels refreshing. Researchers have found even more benefits--a regular bathing routine can:
• fight depression
• reduce stress
• improve sleep
• increase circulation
• remove toxins
Despite the rewards of feeling clean, every CNA and caregiver knows the challenges of bathing someone who is elderly, ill, or with dementia. Caring for someone during a bath is an intimate experience; patients can perceive it as unpleasant or threatening. For people who are no longer able to fully care for themselves, the loss of privacy and independence can feel humiliating.
Safety is the top priority during bathing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the bathroom is the most hazardous room in the house--and that 33% of the accidents there happen during bathing! For caregivers in the home setting, devices such as multiple hand bars and shower seats are necessary. (For a bathroom safety checklist, visit www.AARP.org) In an assisted living or long-term care facility, bathroom and shower areas are required to be equipped with safety devices.
You already know the proper procedure for getting someone clean. When it’s time to help with a bath or shower, try some of these other tips from other experienced CNA colleagues:
1. Assess the patient. Don’t assume that every bath is the same. Some people may be alert and cooperative one day, and confused or tired another day. It may be easier to switch your schedule around and come back later, rather than force the bath at an exact time. Or, it may be a day for a simple bed bath.
2. Sometimes choices help. People who are given a chance to make a decision feel in control. If your patient is able to choose, ask questions such as: “Would you like to take your shower now, or after breakfast?” or “Do you feel like taking a bath or a shower today?”
3. Give the person a task. Many patients like to feel useful, especially in their own care. Ask them to hold the washcloth or a small bottle of shampoo. Maybe they can wash an area that they’re able to reach.
4. Avoid mirrors. Seeing their own reflection can make undressed patients feel uncomfortable. They may not like to see their aging bodies, or they may feel immodest. People with dementia may not recognize themselves and think there is a stranger watching them.
5. Don’t rush. Just as you like to take your time in the shower, so do your patients. If every bath experience is hurried, they will begin to develop anxiety about getting cleaned up. The same is true for sudden movements, which can startle a patient and lead to a slip or fall. Adding five extra minutes can make everyone happy.
Bathing seems like a normal task--sometimes it can even be boring. But it’s important to remember that you are giving your patient three essential things: warmth, touch, and security.
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