Caring hands help seniors take the plunge

By ZHANG YU in Shijiazhuang and DENG RUI in Chongqing | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-12-06 07:20
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Jia Yunfei (first left) and his team provide an assisted bathing service for a senior resident in Handan, Hebei province. FAN WENPING/FOR CHINA DAILY

Assisted bathing services attract increased demand

As the number of seniors in China continues to rise, assisted bathing services are improving their quality of life and giving them more dignity.

Members of such teams do everything they can to help elderly clients, who in many cases have not taken a bath for a long time.

Li Xinnian, a 78-year-old resident of the Yonghua Xincheng residential community in Handan, Hebei province, was persuaded to try an in-home bathing service by his children.

He had difficulty moving after experiencing a stroke last year, and had not taken a bath since, because he was afraid of slipping and falling down.

"My family used to help me clean myself with a wet towel," he said.

On a friend's recommendation, his daughter, Li Yingli, contacted a local company that provides in-home bathing services.

Li Xinnian said, "I initially felt a little embarrassed with other people washing me, and didn't really want to be bathed at all."

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His daughter said, "But after being bathed, my father's skin became rosier, and even his eyes looked brighter." She added that her father now wants to use the bathing service every month.

"These services not only improve the quality of life for seniors such as my father, but give them more dignity and free them from various skin problems," she added.

The company providing the service was established in Handan last year by Jia Yunfei, who used to be a volunteer at a nursing home, where he found many seniors did not bathe for months due to mobility issues.

Realizing that most people face difficulties washing themselves as they age, the 25-year-old started to focus on the business potential of the assisted bathing industry.

Jia traveled to several places, including Beijing and Liaoning province, to learn about the industry, and in October last year, he established Handan Shan'ende Home Care Services Co, which specializes in assisted home bathing services for the elderly.

"Our service requires at least three attendants," said Jia, who approached local talent markets to recruit staff members, but found it hard to find professionals for this new industry.

Instead, he recruited people with experience in household services, and trained them in more than 30 nursing skills, including disinfection, measuring blood oxygen levels, and even performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

After two months' practical training, Jia and his employees officially started the business.

"However, although we had many inquiries, very few appointments were made with the company," Jia said.

To promote the business, he started offering free bathing services to relatives, friends and seniors in nursing homes.

In early January, Jia received his first paid order. "I believed there would be great demand for our service," he said.

He and his team developed a set of standardized work procedures, which included signing service agreements, taking blood pressure and pulse readings, trimming nails, cutting hair, and disinfecting bathtubs.

"We will only provide our service if the elderly meet certain health conditions, such as their blood oxygen level being above 92 and systolic blood pressure below 140," he said.

As the reputation of his business has risen, so has the number of its orders — from an average of two a month to more than 20. To date, Jia's team has served over 200 seniors, with regular clients accounting for 30 percent of his clientele.

Gao Weimin, Jia's wife, who used to be a dance teacher but resigned last year to become an assisted bathing attendant with her husband, said, "I hope that more standardized guidelines will be introduced for this industry to ensure that it develops in a safe and healthy manner.

"I feel a great sense of accomplishment when I see seniors feeling comfortable after a bath."

Du Peng, director of Renmin University of China's Institute of Gerontology, said, "Assisted bathing services are essential, as many elderly people go for a long time without taking a bath, even if they live with their children."

Assisted bathing is one of the basic care services for the elderly, and is necessary for improving their quality of life, Du added.

Many small companies and teams who provide these services nationwide have been particularly busy in places such as Beijing and Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province, he said.

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