A physiotherapist from Cornwall is one of the latest recipients to receive funding from Alzheimer’s Society’s Accelerator Programme to develop and accelerate her innovative idea to create a product that greatly improves the user and carer experience of the bed bath.

63-year-old physiotherapist, Pat O’Brien, has created pobroll®, a totally waterproof calming bed-bathing wrap, that keeps the individual warm and respectfully covered during personal washing and bathing on the bed, whilst also keeping the bed completely dry. This reduces embarrassment and distress and allows for a calm and better bathing experience for all concerned, and can result in reducing the number of staff required to attend to personal care.

For the last 20 years, Pat has been working exclusively in care homes and nursing homes. It’s her years of experience that spurred her on to create the product. She said: “I was often working with people who were very frail, receiving end of life care and many living with dementia. They would become very distressed and agitated when it came to attending to their personal care.

“Having a proper wash, and feeling clean, is a basic human right, but for many people living with dementia, the bed bath commonly causes a range of issues. Feeling cold, embarrassed, or anxious, can cause the person with dementia to become upset and agitated. This can create carer stress and standards of hygiene are often compromised in the rush to get someone re-dressed.

“I wanted to do something that would make a difference. I knew that if I could find a solution to people becoming cold, and agitated when they were receiving a bed bath, it could calm things down and make it a much easier experience for everyone.”

It is estimated that 70% of people living in care homes are people with dementia[1].Having decades of experience working in care homes, Pat was aware of the work of Alzheimer’s Society and last year successfully applied to the charity’s Accelerator Programme. The UK’s leading dementia charity works together with innovators, engineers, designers, developers, entrepreneurs, people living with dementia, academics, health and social care professionals – anyone with a good innovation, like Pat, – to boost new dementia products and innovations to market.

“It’s been quite a journey,” said Pat. “At times I’ve just wanted to give up. But I have seen first-hand how distressing it can be to try and wash someone while they’re in bed. I couldn’t just turn my back when I knew I had an idea that could help so many people.”

There are currently 1.8m people who provide some form of care for people with dementia in England[2]. Pat is working with hospitals and care homes across Cornwall to train staff in how to use the pobroll®. Training guides are also available on her website for people who may be looking to use the product at home.

Donna, a professional carer for a lady with frontal temporal dementia, said: “People can feel very vulnerable being washed and dried by someone. They get cold and can feel insecure and become agitated. We tried pobroll® about three years ago and it has been fantastic. We’re still using it today; it has washed so well. It’s a great piece of equipment, it wraps people making them feel warm and secure and alleviates any of the anxiety bed bathing may bring.

“Anything new can be daunting but in my experience once someone is covered up with the pobroll®, and their dignity is protected, they find personal care less of an ordeal and more calming. I’d recommend it to people without a doubt.”

If you have dementia or are considered chronically sick or disabled, and you are buying pobroll® for your personal use you will be eligible for VAT relief. This also applies if you are family, friend or carer buying on behalf of someone who is eligible. There is also the opportunity to pay for pobroll® in instalments.

Simon Lord, Head of Innovation at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “We believe in the power of innovation, to help improve and personalise care for people with dementia, which is why we chose to support Pat to develop pobroll®.

“The pobroll® has the potential to improve the many lives of people who are in the later stages of dementia who are in need of personal care in bed, and those who care for them.

“Pat brings a wealth of experience, knowledge and passion, and the pobroll® stands up to a challenge that isn’t often talked about.

“The vision is that the pobroll® will, in time, become synonymous with standards of clinical excellence and become accepted as a core part of clinical protocol across all care and nursing settings.”

To discover more about pobroll® and its ability to improve the user and carer experience of the bed bath visit: pobroll.co.uk

Anyone with a great product or innovation who can provide help and hope to people living with dementia can apply for funding and support through the Alzheimer’s Society Innovative Accelerator programme. Visit alzheimers.org.uk/accelerator.