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OBJECTIVES: To determine the prevalence and utilization of environmental adaptations (home modifications and assistive devices) for bathing in community-living older persons with and without bathing disability.

DESIGN: Cross-sectional study.

SETTING: General community of greater New Haven, Connecticut.

PARTICIPANTS: Five hundred sixty-six community-living persons aged 73 and older.

MEASUREMENTS: Trained research nurses performed a comprehensive assessment of bathing function, including an in-home evaluation of the bathing environment and self-reported utilization of environmental adaptations for bathing.

RESULTS: The prevalence of most environmental adaptations for bathing was less than 50% and was only modestly greater in participants with bathing disability (range 6-54%) than in those without bathing disability (2-44%), although important differences in prevalence and utilization were observed according to the type of bathing disability. Participants who had difficulty (without dependence) with bathing were significantly less likely to have most of the environmental adaptations than participants who needed personal assistance (dependence) with bathing. These differences persisted in analyses that specifically evaluated the utilization of environmental adaptations for bathing transfers according to the type of disability with bathing transfers (59% of those with difficulty vs 88% of those with dependence, P < .001).

CONCLUSION: Potentially valuable environmental adaptations are absent from the homes of many older persons with bathing disability and may be particularly underused by older persons reporting difficulty with bathing. To ameliorate or delay the progression of disability in community-living older persons, assessment and remediation strategies should be better targeted to bathing function across the continuum of disability.

(C) 2005 by the American Geriatrics Society