People want, need, and aspire to bathe for a variety of reasons. We’re not going to dwell on the medical benefits of bathing; we think we all know these. Instead we want to explore the other benefits, the ones we’ve perhaps forgotten about but which occupation-focused professional reasoning helps us to remember. The first is the person with the chronic long-term physical condition.
Often they will not have a medical need to bathe, but what about their sense of emotional well-being and control over daily life they experience from the rest and replenishment effects of bathing? Not only this, but the improvements they experience in sleep quality from having a relaxing bath, increasing their resilience to cope with the psychological impact associated with living with a long term condition.
Next situation is the person who is deemed to have adequate access to facilities. Perhaps the person has learning disability or dementia, making the experience of using the “accessible” shower disorientating, confusing, and frightening. Again, there is no medical need to bathe, particularly given there is a fully accessible shower, but imagine the physical and emotional trauma (day in, day out) of being forced to do an activity that causes you so much distress. In these types of situations, using occupation-focused language, we can immediately articulate the benefits of bathing. It will provide a more humane and relaxing way to maintain the person’s hygiene needs. The carer also gets to spend quality time with the individual, where their focus is on developing and maintaining a relationship with the person and not on having to manage behaviour.
So in summary, is the Care Act finally our opportunity to articulate how we can offer, through occupation-focused professional reasoning, an effective approach to understanding the complexity of health and well-being of people looking for statutory services support?
If it is, which I hope you agree it is, we will also have to consider how we will manage the challenges that will inevitably arise from the increased pressure of funding services, equipment and/or adaptation. How we deal with the challenges of limited financial resources is undeniably complex and we don’t have space to begin to explore this issue here, so we’ll have to debate this another time.
Kate Sheehan is a well-respected Occupational Therapist with over 30 years of clinical and commercial experience.