Showers in bed bring comfort to residents in long-term care

Orderlies Latoya Maighan (left) and Maria Barros prepare a resident at Donald Berman Jewish Eldercare Centre for a shower in bed
Orderlies Latoya Maighan (left) and Maria Barros prepare a resident at Donald Berman Jewish Eldercare Centre for a shower in bed

Dementia patients, Holocaust survivors among those to benefit from mobile shower units

The elderly woman lay still on her pillow, warm water flowing through her silver hair and slowly down her neck. Moving gently, Orderlies Latoya Maighan and Maria Barros sprayed her with a shower nozzle, water seeping into the woman’s bed.

It was an unlikely sight: A resident in one of our CIUSSS’s long-term care centres was taking a shower—while lying in her bed. Yet the experience left the woman with a look of deep contentment on her face.

Until this year, this resident fought caregivers at bath time. Frightened and disoriented, she resisted the trip to the shower room and fought staff at every turn.

Orderlies Latoya Maighan (left) and Maria Barros with a mobile shower unit
Orderlies Latoya Maighan (left) and Maria Barros with a mobile shower unit

That changed when our CIUSSS’s Donald Berman Jewish Eldercare began bathing the resident in her room with a mobile shower unit, a practice that brings hygiene care to the resident, instead of the other way around.

The two mobile units at Jewish Eldercare—along with two at Donald Berman Maimonides—have had a transformative impact on residents for whom the trip to the shower room was an ordeal. Some have cognitive impairments, while others carry excess weight or are in the final stages of life.

Still others are Holocaust survivors, for whom showers conjure up dark memories of their wartime past.

All benefit from the mobile units, which restore the relaxing pleasure of bath time.

“Having their shower in their rooms gives them comfort and a feeling of well-being. It’s reassuring,” says Daniela Vrabie, Site Coordinator at Jewish Eldercare. She has seen the showers’ effect on residents first hand. “They come away looking well and relaxed. I call it the spa.”

Ms. Maighan and Ms. Barros deployed the mobile shower with ease, completing the entire bathing process in about 25 minutes. After entering the resident’s room and cheerfully announcing it was time for a shower, they lifted her up and slipped a large towel over her mattress; it would be used later, when the shower was over.

Then, the orderlies placed a rubber cover with an upturned rim over the mattress; it is pinned to the sides of the bed and becomes a basin for the water, which is drained through a hand-held hose. Once completed, the rubber sheet is removed and the resident is swaddled head-to-toe in the towel.

The orderlies say they like the mobile units and so do residents. “It’s peaceful for them. There’s no stress,” says Ms. Maighan, who wore a uniform covered with Batman logos and calls the shower unit the “Bathmobile.”

The intimacy of in-room showers is especially comforting for Holocaust survivors, who remain a presence in our CIUSSS’s long-term care centres despite their diminishing numbers. Shower rooms can trigger traumatic flashbacks for those who survived Nazi concentration camps. And for residents with Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders, the earliest memories often become the clearest ones.

“For them, their room is like a safe space,” Ms. Vrabie says. Staff has learned to always try to understand a resident’s past when delivering care, she adds. “If you look at a person’s life story and experience, you can better understand their reactions and emotions.”

That includes a survivor’s response to the seemingly routine habit of taking a shower. In the moments when they’re immersed in a quieting bath in their own bed, they are delivered from their past and into a more soothing present.

The bed bath units were purchased by the Donald Berman Maimonides Foundation and Donald Berman Jewish Eldercare Foundation.