In October 2020, the occupational therapists from the Leeds and York Partnership Foundation Trust, Community Learning Disability Team (CLDT) embarked on a new venture of working with Martin Mansell, owner of the Floatsation aid. They worked collaboratively with the aim of assessing individuals with Profound and Multiple Learning Disability (PMLD), with the Floatsation aid. The aim of the assessment was to ultimately facilitate bathing with the additional benefit of independent movement in the water.
Floatsation has been around for over twenty years, working mainly in swimming and hydrotherapy pools, situated in school and community settings. The function of the aid is to provide support for inclusive development in the water to help develop independent aquatic skills. The opportunity which arose to work in a domestic setting provided Floatsation with new challenges. This included ensuring the same level of support and independence was provided in the bath setting, as well as a swimming pool and with the lack of access to swimming pools and hydrotherapy pools as a result of Covid-19, the use of the Floatsation aid would provide all round benefits.
Ciara McSharry, Band 5 occupational therapist from CLDT reflects on thi s overall experience.
Floatsation has a multi-purpose use. It allows the individual to be supported during their personal care, as well as enabling greater autonomy and relaxation for the individuals. This is extremely important as it enables individuals who require twenty four hour care, to experience positive and enjoyable encounters during bath time, promoting flexibility.
As an Occupational Therapist, during my intervention, we worked closely with the individual using a combination of education, advice, equipment, and adaption to enhance, restore, or maintain their occupational performance. This bespoke aid allowed us to meet each of the individual’s postural needs, adapting it to their specific preferences. The main goal was that the individual, with a complex body shape, could develop the opportunity to move independently during their bath time, without their movements being restricted. An individual with a learning disability may, in differing degrees experience increased or decreased muscle tone, reduced muscle strength, limited range of movement and motor function limitation. These restrictions limit the ability to position their body independently. However, Floatsation promoted the individual to be as independent as possible in the water, promoting their current movement of limbs.
From the occupational therapy assessment process, it was clearly identified that the Floatsation aid would be a suitable option. This was determined by the fact that the swimming aid was made up of a unique matrix of balls which provided adaptability for individuals of all abilities. The outcome of the assessment was to order a bespoke Floatsation aid for each individual, which was adapted for their specific needs and abilities. This provided each individual with the support, enjoyment, and flexibility they required during bathing.
As occupational therapists, we worked closely and collaboratively with each individual, their family and carers to ensure they enjoy bath time, moving freely in the water, whilst being supported in a safe and fun environment. Additionally, we also had to take into consideration each individuals capacity, and if a best interest decision was necessary to ensure the appropriate steps were complete.
An educational approach was used to work towards the end goal, which involved ensuring that both the individual and staff team felt confident whilst using the Floatsation aid. This involved using a graded approach to enhance the individual’s occupational performance. Additionally, this also involved working closely with the staff team to ensure they felt competent in supporting each individual using the Floatsation aid, which included providing them with education during the equipment handover. This education involved aspects of moving and handling to ensure the individual was transferred and positioned correctly on the Floatsation aid. Follow up visits, advice and support were provided to ensure the staff team felt confident in supporting the individuals using this aid during bath time.
This overall experience has allowed me as a newly qualified occupational therapist to complete the process of completing the assessment, planning, carrying out the intervention and then evaluating this bathing aid. It allowed me to become familiar with and implement a new piece of equipment, which has not only benefitted the service user, but the occupational therapy’s team service development.
On reflection, Floatsation enables all individuals to have fun in the water. In particular, it became more apparent during the current Covid-19 restrictions; Floatsation can improve an individual’s quality of life in their own environment. In addition, it made bathing an improved experience, integrating two of the occupational categories of self-care and leisure.
For more information on Floatsation and Occupational Therapy and its benefits, refer to floatstation.com.
Ciara McSharry (Band 5 Occupational Therapist),
Martin Mansell (Owner of Floatsation).