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Getting a shower

February 1, 2010
by Kathleen Mears
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When I first moved here, residents were showered three times a week with washups done in between. I tried that for a while but three showers a week caused my skin to break down. So my care plan was revised to daily showers and that is what happens unless there are extraordinary circumstances.

I get showered at 7 a.m. Since I am quadriplegic someone has to wash me totally. In the beginning it was difficult getting used to different aides showering me. But I adjusted. However, when there are new aides showering me I feel nervous and so does the aide.

There is not much here that is like getting a shower at home. The only similarity is that someone has to bathe me. Our unit's shower room is down the hall, past the nurse's station, and beyond a main hallway to the dining room and the front lobby door. I go there on my own shower chair wrapped in a fleece throw that discreetly covers me in the lounge, which is usually full of residents headed for breakfast.

Our shower room used to have two shower stalls. But after remodeling two years ago, one walk-in/roll-in shower unit was installed. It has a flip-down seat for those who are able to use it. The shower stall is neither deep nor is it very long so I must back in sideways with my feet hanging out.

The shower room's only heat source is a wall heater that usually makes the room too hot or too cool. There is a toilet and a sink with a mirror over it and a wall cabinet for the aide's supplies, as well as a couple of other shower chairs that are used by other residents. The room has brown ceramic tile on the floor and three quarters of the way up all the walls, which are painted a muted shade of beige.

Shower aides bathe me based on my method. I have different types of soaps and they use them the way that I want. Sometimes it would be nice to spend a little extra time in the shower. But there are always other residents who need to get in so most of my showers are brief.

The stall has a shower wand that can be used to rinse off or it can be attached to the wall and be stationary. It would be nice, though, if it had a massaging or rainfall showerhead that would loosen up tense and aching muscles.

There are curtains around the shower stall that are seldom used. When my shower is finished, the floor must be squeegeed dry to prevent falls and the dirty laundry has to be bagged.

Most residents get dressed in the shower room. But since I find it difficult to get completely dry in such a moist place, I get dressed in my room.

Some things could be done to improve the shower room. It would be helpful to the aides if two stalls were available so that two residents could be showered at the same time. That would make the shower room a bit more like a fitness center. But the extra showering space would be welcome.

The shower room should have shelves. Some of us carry our toiletries in baskets back and forth and we need a place to store them. Although there is a call light by the toilet and one outside the shower, an intercom between the shower room and the nurse's station would allow the aide to stay with the resident if there was an emergency.

I would also prefer more color in the shower room. If the walls were painted a soft peach, with a wallpaper border at the ceiling, it would feel cozy. Soft music would also provide entertainment while we are there.

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Southeastern Ohio for the past 13 years.

To send your comments to the editor, e-mail mhrehocik@vendomegrp.com.

Long-Term Living 2010 February;59(2):40

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