Every profession has its special moments to celebrate. Engineers and their teams toast the opening of new bridge. Surgeons and nurses celebrate the success of a tricky operation. Chefs accept accolades for a perfect soufflé.
As director of a home care agency, I’ve noticed that what excites the most jubilation and high fives in our office is a bath. As in, “Hey everyone, Rose got Mrs. Smith to take a bath and wash her hair!”
Taking a bath might not seem like a big deal to you, but for many seniors and their families it is a big accomplishment. That’s why, during this awards season, I am announcing the establishment of the (drumroll, please) ComForCare Rubber Ducky Awards to be presented to those heroic home health aides who succeed in getting a reluctant bather clean and fresh.
There are many reasons that some seniors avoid bathing. Some are quite reasonably concerned about falling, especially in a room with many hard surfaces and sharp edges. Some just find it takes too much energy. And for many people with dementia bathing is downright traumatic.
But staying clean is important. Seniors who don’t bathe are more prone to fungal infections and urinary tract infections. Their thinner skin dries easily and benefits from lotion applied after bathing. And being clean promotes a sense of dignity and self-worth that enhances socialization.
It is often when a parent stops bathing that we get a call from families asking for help. Sometimes they have been pleading with or scolding their father or mother about it to no avail. In the worst cases, the topic has become such a point of friction that the bathroom has become a battleground and the sight of soap causes arms to cross and brows to furrow.
In those situations we need to set the family’s expectations. Yes, we will be happy to step in and help, but success may not happen right away. I always remember the excellent advice of Dr. Deborah Bier who created ComForCare’s DementiaWiseTM training program: “Never bathe on the first date.” If we don’t create a relationship of respect and cooperation first, we may never get past whatever barrier has been standing between our clients and their better, cleaner selves.
So kudos to those amazing home health aides who figure out a way to help their clients through a successful bath, dress them in clean clothes and brush their hair so it looks lovely. A registered nurse will write detailed instructions for the aide to follow, but when she knocks on the client’s door it’s just the home health aide and the tools she brings to the job (her tact, experience, creativity and caring nature) that will win the day.
And that’s why I have a box of rubber ducks on order from Amazon.