Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Caring for Bedbound Seniors: Montfort Care’s Mobile Bath Service


A simple shower or bath can be a long-forgotten luxury for bedbound seniors, who often receive just a wipe down or sponge bath. To give bedbound seniors the comfort of a good bath, a team at Montfort Care launched Singapore’s very first mobile home bathing service.

Wang Yu Hsuan, Director of Eldercare Services at Montfort Care, shares how she and her team came to set up the GoodLife! HomeBathing service here in Singapore.

Q1. Could you introduce to us what the GoodLife! HomeBathing service is about?

GoodLife! HomeBathing is an island-wide home-bathing service catered to bedbound seniors with physical disabilities, mobility issues, or whose caregivers are frail. Our core team is made up of one nursing aide, one healthcare assistant and an operating coordinator who are all fully trained to operate the equipment and bathe the seniors. Before the Circuit Breaker period, we were able to do three baths per day, with each session lasting two hours (from setting up to taking down). During Circuit Breaker, we had to pause the service but we were able to progressively resume operations from mid-July this year. Now we’re able to deliver one to two baths each day.

Q2. What was the inspiration to start this service in Singapore?

The Montfort Care management team chanced upon a feature of Taiwan’s home bathing service in the news and we had connections with voluntary welfare organisations in Chiayi (Jiayi), Taiwan, that had adopted this system. We therefore embarked on an eldercare tour with them in late-2017 to learn more about this service. Bearing in mind Singapore’s community setup and housing infrastructure, we knew we would have to modify the service to cater to our seniors here.

Based on our years of encounters and experiences on the ground, we found that bedbound seniors rarely, if not never, take a proper shower or bath. Older caregivers often face difficulties in regularly carrying and showering their loved ones who are bedbound. Since these seniors are not able to sit up at all, they usually just get a wipe or sponge-down. Baths help seniors avoid skin infections and minimize body odour. And just like everyone else, these seniors want to be clean and comfortable. Looking and smelling good boosts seniors’ mood and confidence which can in turn improve family dynamics as well.

Hence, recognising the positive impact this could have on the quality of life for bedbound seniors and their caregivers, we sought to bring this service to our seniors. Our efforts came to fruition when the GoodLife! HomeBathing service commenced operations in November 2018.

The GoodLife! HomeBathing team securing the portable bathtub into their customised van.

Q3. Could you describe the entire bathing process?

Before the start of each bath session, a nursing aide checks the senior’s vital signs and explains the bath process to the senior, caregiver, or family member. Meanwhile, the healthcare assistant and operating coordinator set up the bathing equipment for the session.

During the bath, the nursing aide and healthcare assistant bathe the senior while the operating coordinator stands by to assist. After each bath, the team thoroughly and systematically disinfects the bathing equipment in preparation for the next senior. Meanwhile, the nursing aide performs another vital sign check for the senior and debriefs the caregiver or family member.

Q4. Could you share your reflections on the service and its importance to seniors and caregivers?

Taking a shower is a basic need that most of us take for granted. For bedbound seniors, this basic need to maintain personal hygiene is a luxury that they sometimes go without. We once met a senior who had not taken a bath in two to three years, and another who had not done so in 18 years.

We have served seniors who live alone, and in their rooms or houses time seems to freeze. These seniors are usually alone in a dark room and bedbound, with a nasogastric feeding tube (NGT) attached. But when we run the water and start the bath, time begins ticking again. In this precious bathing time, we chit-chat with the seniors, laugh, and sing to them.

After each bath, the seniors look fresh and relaxed. We can sense their appreciation through the smiles from them and their caregivers.

It is a simple bathing service, but we believe we have touched the lives of the seniors, their caregivers, and family members.

“We may not be able to help everyone but everyone who is willing to receive our help, counts.”

Clients are properly covered during the bath to maintain their privacy and dignity.

Q5. After pausing the Home Bathing service due to Circuit Breaker, how did clients and caregivers respond when you were able to resume services?

Nothing short of positive! During the Circuit Breaker period, we received many calls from caregivers and family members enquiring when the service would resume. It was a relief for many of them when we were able to deliver baths again. We have implemented more stringent measures and standard operating procedures (SOPs) to safe-guard the health and safety of clients.

The original cost of each bath is $240, but with the help of charity dollars, we are able to bring down the cost to families substantially based on the family’s financial situation.

Hear the stories of these bedbound seniors and watch the GoodLife! Homebathing video at Montfort Care’s YouTube Channel. If you wish to find out more information on Montfort Care’s GoodLife! HomeBathing service, do contact them at 9815 7190.

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