The onset of bathing disability for older adults has been found to be an indicator and potential precursor of further disability. Thus interventions targeting bathing may prevent or delay further disability and the use of health and social care services. The aim of this systematic review was to identify interventions targeted at reducing dependency in bathing for community dwelling older adults, and determine their content and effectiveness in maintaining or improving function and quality of life.
We conducted a systematic search of electronic databases including: The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL); MEDLINE; EMBASE; AMED; CINAHL; PsycINFO and OTSeeker. The search took place on 18 October 2016. We included randomised controlled trials, nonrandomised controlled trials, and controlled before and after studies that evaluated an intervention designed to reduce dependency in bathing. Articles were screened for inclusion by two independent reviewers; risk of bias was assessed using quality assessment tools; and data extracted using pre-prepared forms. Disagreements were resolved by discussion and inclusion of a third reviewer.
The search process identified one study for inclusion in the review. This study evaluated a bathing intervention delivered by an occupational therapist following discharge from hospital. Overall, the findings suggest modest improvements in functional ability in favour of the intervention group although the results should be interpreted with caution.
Despite evidence suggesting the importance of addressing bathing difficulties as a means of possible prevention of disability in the ageing process, there is a dearth of evaluative or interventional research studies. Further robust research is warranted, including studies of randomised and controlled design.