The U.S. is currently experiencing the largest nursing staff shortage in history with no end in sight. Affecting health care facilities, nursing homes and assisted living facilities alike, lack of resources, ongoing patient care challenges, health and sanitation concerns along with simply being overworked, are all factors fueling this nursing shortage.
Just as with the plumbing industry labor shortage, the nursing community is working towards solutions to help bridge the gap between nurse availability and patient care. The plumbing industry is also doing its part. Manufacturers are stepping up to create products that prioritize sanitation, inclusivity, facility efficiency and patient and caretaker needs.
According to Dan Walkowiak, product manager for Bemis Manufacturing Co., the assisted bathroom experience has been lacking real innovation for quite some time. At the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show (KBIS) in Las Vegas earlier this year, Bemis announced the new Empower with Clean Care, a cleansing toilet seat designed for independent living, assisted living and memory care facilities to provide better care for patients and efficiencies for the staff. It delivers automated, consistent perineal cleansing and is ideal for use in these settings, where professional caregiver time and effort are often spent assisting residents with toileting.
“Empower fits Bemis’ Independence product line strategy of best-level products and adds to the current offering with its consistent, automated cleaning process,” Walkowiak says. “Perineal hygiene is very important, especially for those experiencing incontinence-related issues or physical limitations. Empower is a complete system that goes beyond an elevated seat and e-bidet by also applying a cleanser and barrier spray. The overall goal of Empower is to increase the user’s independence, dignity, and quality of life.”
Assisted toileting can lead to staff industries, clogged toilets and high employee turnover. According to Walkowiak, the goal with Empower is to help ease the physical burden of assisted toileting. “For a facility, this means potentially reducing staff injuries, turnover, and even fewer clogged toilets. For the resident, their dignity and independence are restored through the ability to self-toilet.”
Needing help in the toilet can also be extremely undignifying to patients. Helping to preserve privacy and independence, the Empower offers three main cycles: A traditional water wash, the application of a cleanser, followed by a water wash, and both previous functions follow with the application of a skin barrier spray.
“Cycles can be customized for water temperature, pattern, and time, as well as seat temperature and drying time,” Walkowiak explains. “The cleanser and barrier spray are already being utilized in facilities as a means of a more effective cleaning and skin protectant. Empower simplifies the process by consistently applying the sprays as needed.”
Walkowiak adds that thorough cleansing helps reduce urinary tract infections, hospital admissions and malodor associated with incontinence. “It is also a differentiator for facilities wanting to offer innovative solutions to their residents. Its automated cleaning process saves time and energy, allowing staff to complete other tasks sooner,” he says.
Products like Empower are examples of much-needed innovation in the caretaking and assisted toileting space. “The assisted bathroom experience has been lacking real innovation for quite some time. Most assistive products only serve a very basic need and have not kept up with the voice of the consumer,” Walkowiak says. “Moving forward, individuals and facility owners will go for high-end, best-level products if those products deliver real value through their features and benefits. I would expect to see a greater focus on high price point items, not only in the bathroom, but within entire living spaces.”
Walkowiak adds that the large influx of the 65+ age demographic will dictate the market wants and needs in years to come. “The overall response toward Empower has been overwhelmingly positive. Many recognize the benefits in the product from both a personal and professional perspective,” he says. “One of the most common responses when talking about the seat is, ‘I know my [mom, uncle, neighbor, resident, facility] could really use something like this.’”
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