OBJECTIVES: To understand the bathing experiences, attitudes, and preferences of older persons in order to inform the development of effective patient-centered interventions.
DESIGN: Qualitative study using the Grounded Theory framework.
SETTING: In-depth, semistructured interviews were conducted in participants' homes.
PARTICIPANTS: Twenty-three community-living persons aged 78 and older identified from the Precipitating Events Project (PEP).
MEASUREMENTS: Open-ended questions about bathing habits, personal meaning and purpose of bathing, difficulties and concerns about bathing, preferences for independent bathing, and attitudes toward different types of bathing assistance.
RESULTS: Three themes emerged: the importance and personal significance of bathing to older persons; variability in attitudes, preferences, and sources of bathing assistance; and older persons' anticipation of and responses to bathing disability.
CONCLUSION: The bathing experiences described by study participants underscore the personal significance of bathing and the need to account for attitudes and preferences when designing bathing interventions. Quantitative disability assessments may not capture the bathing modifications made by older persons in anticipation of disability and may result in missed opportunities for early intervention. Findings from this study can be used to inform the development of targeted, patient-centered interventions that can subsequently be tested in clinical trials.