A Bathing Assist

Patricia C. Cope, O.T.R. John Hile Bureau


For the bilateral upper-extremity amputee, the difficulties encountered in taking a bath without outside help can seem insurmountable. This was a problem for one of our amputees who was trying to be independent in a household of females.

The piece of equipment which solved his problem was not only inexpensive and portable but also simple to construct. The material selected for the device was ¾ in. finished oak and this wood was coated with No. 4110 polyester resin to protect it from continual immersion in water. A 3-in. auto roof-rack suction cup was mounted at each corner of the triangular unit ( Fig. 1 ). The height of the triangle will be determined by the inside vertical dimension of the tub, but the length of the horizontal bar should be at least 15 in. During the process of bathing, a great deal of stress is placed on the top two suction cups and the 15-in. length is required to keep them secure. Another piece of wood approximately 2 ft. long by 2 in. wide is fastened to the top and bottom of the triangle. A clothes rod of the over-the-door type was bolted to the upright so that the top of the rod was at the patient's standing mid-thigh level. This particular type of hanger was selected because it folds out of the way when it is not in use, thus making the tub available for other members of the family (position A-B in Fig. 1 ).

To bathe, the amputee uses his feet to fill the tub and completely soak a towel ( Fig. 2 ). For this purpose the towel is folded and stitched into a tube. He then places the towel on the rod and soaps it, again using his feet ( Fig. 3 ).

Lastly, he moves the rod into its horizontal position (position A-C in Fig. 1 ). By moving about in the tub he is able to rub all parts of his body against the towel ( Figs. 4, 5, and 6 ). He submerges his body to rinse it and, after the water has been drained, either air dries or rubs against a dry towel, using the same technique as before.

If it is necessary to remove and replace the bathing assist frequently, it is helpful to have an additional piece of equipment. This is a flat piece of 1/16-in. aluminum about ¾ in. wide, with one end rounded and beveled to assist in releasing the suction cups.

Maternal and Child Health Handicapped and Crippled Children's Service District of Columbia General Hospital Washington, D.C.