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Bathing For Older People With Disabilities

The Study


The present study was conducted to assess the bathing needs and preferences of older persons living at home, and their care-providers. It was designed to generate qualitative data on bathing, and it was aimed at understanding a variety of bathing issues. The results of the study are being used to design a bathing facility capable of providing greater safety and access to all.


All together 40 participants (26 bathers and 14 care-providers) were interviewed for the study. All bathers were over the age of 62, with the exception of one 45 year old paraplegic male. The oldest person was a 90-year old female. The interviewees consisted of: 20 independent bathers (those who bathe on their own), 6 dependent bathers (those who are bathed by another individual), 3 family care-providers (persons who bathe their relatives/friends) and 11 homecare-providers (professionals who bathe clients). Only three participants had mobility problems; two depended upon the use of a walker, and one was a wheelchair user. With the exception of the paraplegic male, who received assistance from his wife once weekly, all independent bathers managed on their own. The four dependent bathers were assisted by care-providers. All of the bathers live in non-institutional settings, most of them in apartments, some in their own homes, and a few in housing projects for senior citizens.

The family care-providers are members of a care-provider support group. The homecare-providers are employed by three health care agencies, and their involvement was suggested by their respective employers. All participants (bathers and care-providers) were from theBuffalo area, and their participation in the interviews was voluntary.


The field research was based solely on three categories of interviews: focus group interviews consisting of four to seven participants, personal interviews with bathers and joint interviews with dependent bathers and their care-providers . The ambulatory bathers (independent) were contacted through senior centers, and they were interviewed in focus group settings in the senior centers. The non-ambulatory bathers (independent and dependent ) were clients served by longterm care agencies. They were interviewed in their homes (some with aides and others without). The family care-providers were interviewed individually in their homes. Professional aides were interviewed simultaneously, with or without their clients, in focus group settings at their offices or in their clients' homes. The focus group interviews lasted between one-and-one-half to two hours, the personal interviews between three-quarters of an hour to an hour, and the joint interviews between an hour and one-and-one-half hours.

All interviews were audio-taped. The bathrooms of those people interviewed in their homes were video-taped. Each of the interviews was conducted in a discussion-like situation using a variety of open-ended questions. Due to the uniqueness of each person's background and the personal nature of the discussion topic, not all participants were asked identical sets of questions. Instead, questions followed the momentum of the discussion and responsiveness of the interviewee(s). They revolved around a set of pre-determined bathing themes. The videos were later reviewed to determine the environmental conditions of the bathrooms. The content of the interviews were evaluated based on the quality and frequency of responses received. The similarities, differences and uniqueness of the information helped develop a pattern of bathing needs and preferences.

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New York-Presbyterian. The University Hospitals of Columbia and Cornell