Monday, June 28, 2010

Person-Centered Bathing: Long-Term Care Culture Change (Research)

Do you remember how special bath time was when you were a child? Did you have toys floating on the waves of your rolling sea? Were there bubbles sometimes adding magic to the experience of getting fresh and clean? Maybe you still have certain rituals like music, fragrance, and candlelight that take bathing to another level when you want to pamper yourself. These simple treasures can add so much to uplifting spirits. While bathing may seem like a universal activity, individual preferences add personal joy. Shouldn’t nursing homes be sensitive to residents’ personal preferences when they can be implemented?

A research study by the Yale School of Medicine examined the bathing experiences, attitudes, and preferences of older persons through in-depth interviews. Three themes emerged:
1) The importance and personal significance of bathing to older persons
2) Variability in attitudes, preferences, and sources of bathing assistance
3) Older persons' anticipation of and responses to bathing disability
Clearly, their attitudes and preferences are important when person-centered interventions for bathroom design are considered.
My book "Becoming Dead Right: A Hospice Volunteer in Urban Nursing Homes” has a chapter titled “Baby Boomer Haven,” which takes readers on a tour of an imaginary nursing home that incorporates best practices currently being used in nursing homes today, but not nearly enough. Of course, innovative bathing systems meeting residents’ needs continue to be invented. The tour is led by a resident in a wheelchair. This excerpt from the tour addresses bathrooms:
“This might be a little unusual, but I just have to show you one of our bathrooms. Using the bathrooms is a pleasant experience here. We have choices about whether we want a shower, a bath, or a sponge bath, and when we choose to take them. The Jacuzzi tubs and music are great motivators to come here. Deodorizers keep our bathrooms smelling fresh at all times. Notice the bright artwork that colors the walls and even the ceilings, so we can admire beauty when we are in reclining positions. We can soak in beauty everywhere we look. These simple touches tell us that somebody thought we were worth the effort.”

Isn’t that what quality of life is all about?

Frances Shani Parker, Author


  1. Frances you used good key words in your post. It is about having choices. It is also about doing little things that make a BIG difference (e.g. jacuzzi tubs, music, artwork etc.) I am current a couple chapters in a book called All Marketers Are Liars by Seth Godin that is relevant to your post. "The organizations that succeed realize that offering a remarkable product with a great story is more important and more profitable than doing what everyone else is doing just a bit better." Those small touches do make a BIG difference. Good post. Take care!

  2. Thanks for commenting, Michael. I think people in general just want to be shown that they matter. The small/Big touches often do that.