Whirlpool and Air Spa
Showering and Bathing Problematic for Seniors
For years, nursing home residents were either showered or bathed in tubs ill-suited for geriatric use. The deficiencies of these two bathing techniques were many. The splashing water of the shower could cause combative behavior in the resident, the clothes of staff members frequently got soaked with contaminated water that splashed off the resident, access to all areas of the body was limited, leading to inadequate cleaning, skin issues and odor, and there were no therapeutic benefits. Bathing systems of the day offered no water movement, with staff needing to manually clean the residents, and they were dangerous to get in and out of.
Since geriatric residents pose unique hygiene challenges, the next generation of tubs included whirlpool jets to facilitate the bathing process. While providing hydro-massage benefits, their primary purpose was to clean in hard to reach areas that the manual washing by the bath aids missed. Primitive by today’s standards, these whirlpools required manual cleaning and disinfecting between baths as automatic disinfection systems were not yet available. A combination of factors, including the difficulty of manual cleaning and disinfecting, lack of proper infection control training among staff, and failure of staff to adhere to protocol, often led to cross-contamination issues.
Apollo Brings Whirlpool and Infection Control into the Modern Era
Fortunately, later whirlpool models included automatic cleaning and disinfection systems, so infection control problems could be alleviated. Apollo Corporation was one of the first bathing system companies to implement cleaning and disinfecting systems in our bathing units, with other companies quickly following suit. Today, Apollo’s whirlpool systems completely clean, disinfect, rinse and drain the entire whirlpool system, maximizing infection control benefits. Unfortunately, the negative perception brought about by the other older brands of bathing systems, along with recent negative publicity surrounding home spas and public hot tubs have dampened people’s view of whirlpools.
Why are Air Spas so Popular in Health Care?
Due largely to the cross-contamination issues of older generation whirlpools and to the negative publicity home spas and public hot tubs have received in recent years relative to bacteria levels, air spa systems have grown in popularity. The primary claim is that there are no internal whirlpool lines to get contaminated and harbor bacteria. However, early air spa models leaked significantly, and consistently allowed contaminated water back into the air lines. Since they had no means of flushing these lines, they subsequently harbored bacteria and posed a significant infection control risk every time a person bathed in the tub. As such, their infection control claims were proven invalid.
Some newer generation air spas are again claiming water-tight systems, calling them “closed-loop”. While contaminated water eventually does leak back into the air lines causing the same issues as earlier generation air spas, they still ignore the significant infection control issue of bath water becoming contaminated by the bacteria that wash off the resident’s body. During a typical bath, bacteria levels increase up to 500,000% as bacteria and other pathogens wash off the body. These pathogens can include staph, strep, e-coli, and even c-diff. Air spas can do nothing to ward off these organisms during the ten minutes the resident is subjected to them in the bath. This is a fatal flaw in closed-loop systems.