Playing it Safe
- By Bill Lozon, Pamela Friedman
- Jun 01, 2001
With the aging of America's population, more people are seeking alternatives to placing the elderly in nursing homes; many are opting to maintain home health care services. Americans also are finding alternatives for establishing quality health care for chronic conditions or disabilities by opting for treatment at home or for assistance from home health care workers. This has led to an increase in demand for home health products, designed not only to help the end user, but also to aid caregivers.
"Bath safety products are designed to meet the needs of a growing, aging population along with the rehabilitation market," said Fredrick Nelson, a bath safety consultant for Action Products Inc., Hagerstown, Md.
Safety has always been a major issue in home health care. Maintaining a quality-controlled situation for the safety of the patient as well as health care workers has created a market within the home health product industry that is duly needed. As patients and caregivers struggle with mobility and ambulatory issues--including independence--bath safety products are manufactured to eliminate some of the concerns related to patient care.
"Bathroom safety products are about maintaining safety, independence and dignity," Nelson said.
Independence and Convenience
Bath safety products are designed to aid in promoting independence, while ensuring safe, quality care. Elderly patients and people with disabilities often need assistance in the bathroom due to limited mobility. Products can be used to help
Bath safety products are designed to aid in promoting independence, while ensuring safe, quality care.
them maintain their independence, allowing them the freedom to stay at home without family members or caregivers worrying about unsafe conditions, such as slipping or falling. Many individuals use bath safety products for preventative measures.
"Without some of these products, hygiene and grooming tasks might not be able to be done independently without the help of another person," said Susan Mocek, marketing manager, Maddak Inc., Pequannock, N.J.
"Without proper bathroom safety products, the risk of injury increases dramatically," Nelson added.
Wheelchair users, or others who have limited mobility, may find that bath safety products are available to help them sustain independence and quality of life. Accommodations can be made that allow those in wheelchairs the opportunity to maintain their autonomy without relying on caregivers for assistance. Elevated toilet seats and bath transfer products mean the difference between self-reliance and needing assistance.
"For some people, these products are essential assistive devices," Mocek added.
Nelson believes, however, that all too often, funding agencies see bathroom safety products as luxuries, rather than the safety net they truly are.
Individuals who have lower and upper body weakness, as well as patients with decreased muscle tone or with coordination and stability problems, will find that utilizing bath safety products prevents accidents, while also easing the strain of self care.
"Statistically, the bathroom is the highest risk room in the home for both able-bodied and people with disabilities," Nelson said.
Safety is the major concern when worrying about patient care--whether independent or assisted. However, bath safety products also offer convenience. Products such as elevated toilet seats make sitting and standing easier for those who may have low back pain or weak limbs.
Ceiling-mounted lifts are extremely beneficial in the bathroom; since most bathrooms are small, floor model lifts can sometimes be difficult to use due to lack of space to maneuver them.
Grab bars and handgrips help promote independence by offering support so patients do not have to rely on home health care workers or caregivers with daily hygiene routines such as bathing or showering. Bath transfer benches reduce the risk of falls or accidents by offering stable support, and also aid caregivers because they eliminate much of the strain involved in moving and lifting patients in and out of the bathtub.
However, Nelson said many home care dealers are getting out of the (grab bar) market because of liability and
For some people, these products are essential assistive devices.
tructural issues that come into play. "You get one chance of getting it right when you install grab bars. Drill through tile and miss the stud, and your customer is not going to be pleased."
Nelson also said that there are contractors who specialize in accessible bathroom renovations, and they accommodate in their construction or renovation for bathroom safety equipment.
Shower stools are convenient for patient use because the risk of falling down or slipping is minimized since patients are able to sit, thus preventing shower or bathtub accidents. According to Mocek, a major benefit of using bath safety products is that if the product is designed right, it can have a universal use and benefit to the entire family--not just the person for who it was originally intended.
Safety and Prevention
While bath safety products are designed to make the lives of patients easier by providing a safe home environment, caregivers also benefit by using them. Products that offer weight stability and support to patients also ease back pain and reduce the risk of injury for caregivers.
"Bathroom safety products combine safety with increased independence," Nelson said.
Barrier Free Lifts, Manassas, Va., manufactures battery-operated, ceiling-mounted lifts. According to Ted Hensley, president, lifts offer support for users in the bathtub.
"Caregivers also greatly benefit because you can drop someone into a tub, but you cannot always manually lift them back out, which makes it difficult on the caregiver," he added.
Products designed to minimize bending and lifting, such as when parents are helping children bathe, help prevent injuries for both child and parent.
With the support and stability that bath safety products provide, caregivers are able to better care for their patients, without worrying about personal injury or accidents, thus allowing them to concentrate on patient care.
"The primary reason for using bath safety products is to prevent injury to the caregiver and the patient," Hensley said. "They generally make life easier."
The bath safety market is growing. One reason for this growth is the baby boom population. "People are getting older and living longer," Hensley said. Since a large percentage of the U.S. population is made up of elderly people, there is likely to be a higher rate of people living with disabilities or chronic conditions.
Hensley attributes part of the growth to the availability of information. "People are a lot more educated about their health than in the past," he said. With the Internet offering immediate access to information regarding health conditions, disabilities and products, the home health care market will continue to grow.
"There is less of a stigma to have these products in your home now," Mocek said.
One trend in the bath safety market is the look and design. "Manufacturers are paying more attention to aesthetics," Mocek said.
The bath safety market is growing because of the availability of so many different choices. Products which once were only available in hospital white, are now being offered in a variety of colors to match the décor of the user's house.
"At Maddak, we are trying to offer more choices, whether its color or making products that blend with the décor of the end user's bathroom," Mocek said. "We also manufacture a children's bath seat that is available in two child-friendly colors--lavender and turquoise."
Nelson believes getting away from padded bathroom safety hardware to composite plastics for increased durability and hygienic reasons also is an important change in the market.
"Because we manufacture products that accommodate for pressure management, while being a stable product for use in wet environments without the risk of bacterial growth, our position in the marketplace has grown," he added.
Manufacturers also are addressing the construction of bath safety products. Inconspicuous assistive devices, such as
The primary reason for using bath safety products is to prevent injury to the caregiver and the patient.
oilet seats, are designed to attach to existing toilets or for use with a standard toilet lid. This allows users to not only maintain the aesthetic appearance of their bathroom, but also limits any modifications that might be made to accommodate bath safety products.
What Matters Most
Those patients or caregivers who use bath safety equipment will continue to demand products that offer convenience, safety and aesthetics, thus encouraging manufacturers to develop products that will change as the need and desire of the end user changes.
"The marketplace is growing because of the demand for individuals to remain independent longer at home than in the past. Our elders remain independent at home at higher risk than in the past due to care situations," Nelson said.
Aging populations, education and access to information, as well as manufacturers' attention to the needs of patients and caregivers will continue to drive the bath safety market.
"Cost of care facilities, lack of health care and other social issues all impact the market trends and as more individuals remain at home, the more demand for cost-effective safety products increases," Nelson concluded.
While the market is changing and growing to accommodate the aging population, what matters most is the issue of safety. Caregivers and patients need bath safety products that will ensure their safety, while offering both groups convenience and independence.
This article originally appeared in the June 2001 issue of HME Business.