How Occupational Therapist’s Teach Bathing and Dressing Devices in Rehabilitation

By: Anna Metcalf  OTR/L
Geriatric SIS Chair

As we age it is common to lose a great deal of our dynamic balance.  We see reduced balance among older adults all the time in skilled nursing facilities. Common goals for our patients is to improve their balance, and to teach them ways to be safe at home with their ADLs. A study found in AJOT, evaluated how occupational therapists educated and evaluate patients regarding dressing and bathing safety and the use of assistive devices prior to discharge to home (Schemm, L.N., 1998).  Patients in this study received on average three dressing and two bathing devices for home use. The therapist devoted two sessions teaching use of the devices for bathing and dressing to increase their safety at discharge to home.   What they found does not come as a surprise.   Following education and using these assistive devices at home, patients demonstrated improved safety and improved outcomes with reduced hospital admissions (Schemm, L.N., 1998).

I chose this article to highlight how important it is that we teach our patients about dressing and bathing techniques with assistive devices to increase their success rates at home.  Our profession of occupational therapy focuses on the ADLs, which in my opinion are high-risk activities for our balance impaired geriatric population, leading to falls and hospital admissions.  From my experience working in a skilled nursing facility for two years and moving on to acute care, I see the benefits of teaching our geriatric patients how to use assistive devices to increase safety with their ADLs at home.  Some examples of assistive devices or adaptive equipment to increase safety with our geriatric patients included but not limited to using: sock aids, dressing sticks, reachers, grab bars, tub benches, long handled sponges, and long handled shower handles.



Ruth L. Schemm, L. N. (1998). How Occupational Therapist Teach Older Patients To Use Bating and Dressing Devices in Rehabilitation. Philadelphia: American Journal Of Occupational Therapy.

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