Effect of Bathroom Aids and Age on Balance Control During Bathing Transfers

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Abstract

Bathroom assistive devices are used to improve safety during bathing transfers, but biomechanical evidence to support clinical recommendations is lacking. This study evaluated the effectiveness of common bathroom aids in promoting balance control during bathing transfers. Twenty-six healthy adults (12 young, 14 older) stepped into and out of a slippery bathtub while using a vertical grab bar on the side wall, a horizontal grab bar on the back wall, a bath mat, a side wall touch, or no assistance. Balance control was characterized using center of pressure measures and showed greater instability for older adults. The vertical grab bar and wall touch resulted in the safest (best controlled) transfers. The bath mat provided improved balance control in the axis parallel to the bathtub rim but was equivalent to no assistance perpendicular to the rim, in the direction of obstacle crossing. These results can support clinical recommendations for safe bathing transfers.

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