What Do You Do In The Bath?

“Eighty-nine ear old female, stuck in the bath”.

One of our 'regular' types of calls are to the elderly who have taken a tumble, normally while going to the toilet in the middle of the night, sometimes they just slip out of their bed. We turn up, we pick them up, dust them off, and go on our merry way with the patient's thanks ringing in our ears.

'Stuck in the bath', is not something we often do.

Let me explain how difficult it is for two ambulance staff to get someone out of the bath.

First, the bathroom is often tiny, and the bath is normally up against a wall. What this means is that our usual method of hoiking up someone can't be used. Normally we'd each take an arm and lift, but with the wall in the way you can only get under one arm.

Next the patient is wet and naked. This makes them embarrassed and slippery. Neither of which is conducive to an easy lift.

Finally we often have to lift them over the lip of the bath, which means lifting them higher than we normally would.


We arrive at the patient's house to find that she is well and truly stuck – she's using a lifting gizmo that she sits on, but this seems to have stopped working. She's also not the lightest person in the world.

Thankfully she has a very upbeat nature and, after getting a dressing gown on her, we start to attack the problem.

What we can sometimes do is a 'top and tail' (which will probably make any manual handling person cry out in horror), essentially one of us comes from behind the patient and lifts under their armpits while the other ambulance person lifts the patient's legs.

Unfortunately, because of the shape of the lifting device if we needed to put her down in a hurry (which can happen during a lift) she would find herself sitting on two rather pointy looking bits of metal.

I had a delve around the lifting device to see if I could fix it, but it was well and truly stuck.

Time for backup.


We have a wonderful bit of kit called a Mangar Elk – essentially it's an inflatable cushion – you put the patient on it when it is deflated then pump it up. It expands and the patient comes up with it. I've used it in the past and it's been a real godsend.

Unfortunately we don't carry one on every vehicle, so we called for a station officer to fetch one from the ambulance station.

We waited for only a short while before the officer turned up, handed us the bag and gave a look that seemed to say 'I hope you folks know how to use this bit of kit'.

Thankfully I did, we would get our patient to rock from one side to the other so we could get the cushion under her, then inflate it and Bob would be your uncle.

The patient did as she asked and moved to one side.

And then her lifting device started to lift her up.

Click, click, click it went.

Up and up she went until she could swing her legs over the bath and, with a bit of assistance, get out of the bath.

The officer looked at us as if we had called him out for a joke.


So we had a chat with the patient, a bit of a laugh and then went on our merry way. The officer taking the unused Mangar Elk back to the station.

At essence a simple job, but one that was a bit more complicated than normal.

6 thoughts on “What Do You Do In The Bath?”

  1. Reminds me of a call I was on a while back.A large man (180kg+) was taking a bath when, bam!, cardiac arrest. We arrive at the smallest bathroom i've ever seen. (50cm space between wall and tub and 3 of the 4 edges of the tub was mounted into th wall and a toilet in the oposit end of the door leaving us with approx 1mx0.50m very wet workspace……I've never been so wet and exahusted ever!Even with the help of five firefighters (crowded you say) I took us a good 30min to get him out of the tub.He was alerady dead way before we even had a chance to begin CPR.I've also been stuck in a lift for 30min with a claustrophobic, asthmatic patient with a broken hip (my third day and alone in the lift because it was small). Awesome!

  2. it goes to show you that people really need to lose some weight..ive had the “pt fall down go boom” ones but i live in the US on the “oh so beautiful” cape cod where the patients are tiny and frail. I commend you guys on how your able to work with those conditions

  3. If the water has already been let out of the bath on such occasions -and if there is no lifting device- would it help to refill the bath? The buoyancy makes the person lighter -at least initially- meaning you don't have to lift a 'dead' weight so far.

  4. I've used a blanket roll in this type of situation. Take a thin blanket or sheet, fold it diagonally into a triangle, then roll from the point to the long side. Use tape on the end if you want to secure it more permanently.Then from behind the patient, tuck one end under each arm, around the shoulder and back up to behind the neck, where you hold both ends together (or alternatively have one person hold each end and use it as a handle). Works great on wet people and gives you a bit more purchase without having to bend down so far.

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