Bathing is an essential element of daily care, and it is important to ensure that it is a safe and pleasant experience for residents and care staff. Dennis Goodes, managing director of The Assisted Bathing Company, provides some useful guidance on bathroom planning
Many residential and nursing homes have two choices when it comes to catering for residents bathing requirements, and these are determined by the space available. Whether you have en-suite
facilities or a specified multi-use bathroom, the choices available to you can be quite different.
If you are planning to install a bath, you should ensure you allow enough space to manoeuvre a wheelchair or transfer system, such as a mobile hoist, around the seat end. If you are buying a bath with a built-in seat lift, the seat will swing out either to the left or to the right, so you will need to decide which side is best for access and the lateral transfer of the resident onto the bath seat.
Generally speaking a square metre would be sufficient, but remember to look out for possible obstructions where the seat swings outwards.
There are many practical functions to consider when planning a setting for safe bathing. If residents are capable of bathing independently, or have en-suite facilities, you may choose a fixed height bath, but you should opt for a powered traverse seat. A seat with a powered traverse action allows the bather to enter and exit the bath independently without requiring assistance from care staff.
Fixed height powered baths are more economical to buy too. However, if residents need carer assistance to safely enter or exit the bath, then a height adjustable bath tub would be more suitable. These baths offer greater flexibility and the adjustable height feature helps to protect care assistants from back injury and other strains.
Of course, the choice of a fixed height or height adjustable bath is influenced by the nature of the care to be provided. In multi-bathing situations in a purpose built bathroom, the flexibility of a height adjustable bath makes sense, but height adjustable baths do not work in a room where there is limited access from one side or, as in an en-suite, the bath needs to be sited against a wall. Also, height adjustable baths cannot be sealed to a wall, and so access for cleaning must be allowed for at the planning stage.
A bath that has been designed to be used by disabled people is defined as a Class 1 Medical Device (Medical Devices Directive 93/42EC) and manufacturers should be registered with the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
The Water Regulations Advisory Service (WRAS) requires that installers connect only approved components to the mains water supply. This is not a legal requirement, but it is a water company by-law. If equipment connected to the water mains is not approved, a water company can insist that it is removed. Although it is not necessary for baths to be WRAS approved, any part of the installation that is connected to the water mains, such as taps, showers, connecting pipes and thermostatic valves, must be approved.
When choosing a bath always check or ask an installer to check the location of the utilities – electricity, the hot and cold water supply and the waste water outlet – before placing an order. Manufacturers build each bath with fixed utility inlets and outlets and these cannot be changed easily on site.
Power assisted baths need to be installed by trained and competent installers because they are potentially dangerous, as most electrical items are, and it is important that they are installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.
From fixed or variable height baths to powered seats that safely and gently rotate the bather into the bath, assisted baths can improve the bathing experience for both residents and carers. Therefore, you should protect your investment by choosing a reputable company to supply the bath that has the experience to understand your requirements, and is going to be around for the lifetime of the bath and will be there if needed.
by Dennis Goodes
Managing Director of the Assisted Bathing Company
Reader enquiries – Tel: 01590 647479 or visit www.assistedbathing.com