September 23rd, 2015
In an attempt to capture what it must truly be like to be in someone else’s shoes who needs assisted daily bathing, we’ve compiled two similar yet different scenarios.
It comes from us having realized how important it is to get in the other person’s “world” so to speak. It’s a healthy exercise to practice from time to time, no matter what field you’re in.
Wash basin scenario:
Imagine you’re 85 years old, just came out of serious surgery a few days ago, and have been in quite a bit of pain since then. Nevertheless you’re slowly recuperating. While enjoying some peaceful, well needed rest, suddenly the lights turn on and you’re rudely awakened by a nurse who tells you it’s time for your daily bath. She starts to undress you. You ask if it’s absolutely necessary and that perhaps it can be done at a later time. She responds, “Unfortunately not”.
She lifts your right arm, begins to lather it up, scrubbing your under arm area with soap, puts your arm down, lifts it up again to rinse the suds off, puts your arm down again, and then lifts it up again to dry it with a towel. Now mind you it’s increasingly painful each time that she lifts up your arm. At this point you’re a bit relieved as it appears that that was the last time she was going to lift your arm. To your surprise she lifts it up again to put some skin cream on. Now your shoulder and arm are in some real pain.
You then realize that that was only the beginning, as she has to lift up EACH LIMB of yours 4 TIMES to repeat the same procedure. Not to mention your back, front and intimate areas. This is not something that you’re used to, as you just recently became bedridden. Just a week ago you were completely independent.
So after this bathing process, you’re in more pain than you were directly after surgery. Your mood has been totally affected by the morning’s experience and when your family visits you that day, they can tell. When you try to explain to them that you do not wish to be bathed in such a way anymore, they tell you they’ve already spoken with nursing staff about protocol and there’s nothing they can do about it. Now your plan is to not be so cooperative next time around, as if that may somehow stop them from bathing you so often.
NOW, let’s imagine that you are 82 years old and have been suffering from dementia for years, though of course, you are not completely aware of it. Your peripheral vision and depth perception have diminished drastically. Your vision overall has a yellowish-orange haze to it. It is extremely difficult to get around as you constantly have pain and numbness in your toes and feet. Even your sense of touch through your fingers is impaired, which has turned simple tasks like buttoning your shirt into a major challenge.
Each morning you wake up confused. Where am I? Who is this person? Then one morning you wake up and in enters a person whom you can just vaguely remember. He begins speaking to you in a familiar and soothing voice. He seems to be preparing something while telling you it’s time to be cleaned. He gently takes your arm and applies a moist, warm, pleasant feeling cloth. He continues talking to you in a soothing tone about something enticing and relaxing, during which he performs the same procedure on your other arm, your legs, and the rest of your body. The personal and enjoyable contact that you had with the nurse causes you to be more at ease with your surroundings, causing you to smile at the nurse who smiles back at you.
Regardless of the state of the person in each scenario, which bathing scenario would you prefer?
Once we put ourselves in the perspective of the patient, the choice between Swash or the wash basin becomes imminently clear.