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Report: Nursing Homes Struggle to Care for Obese Residents

People who suffer from obesity grapple with a range of health problems, from diabetes to congestive heart failure.

The number of ailments facing obese adults increase as they age. This has resulted in serious problems at nursing homes throughout the country, where Medicare often refuses to pay more for the specialized care needed for adequate care of obese patients. Kaiser Health News reports this has caused some nursing homes to routinely turn down hospital referrals for overweight patients, but there are concerns this practice violates federal anti-discrimination laws.

A number of hospitals have stepped in to help ease the transition by offering donations of specialized lifts, mattresses and beds. While there is much focus on society-at-large to get fit and lose weight, doctors say there is a segment of the population for which this is not realistic or even advisable. That does not mean they forfeit their right to adequate care.

It’s expected that by 2040, more than 82 million people are going to be over the age of 65 (that’s more than twice as many as in 2000). As it now stands, nearly 40 percent of adults in America over the age of 60 are obese. Five percent of adults are considered “extremely obese.” Officials say the problem is likely only to get worse.

As of 2010, the percentage of moderately to severely obese patients entering nursing homes shot up to 25 percent in 2010. That was up from less than 15 percent just a decade earlier. There are a number of studies that suggest this is just the beginning of a longer trend.

There is significant concern that the population is changing faster than nursing homes have the ability to cope, which is resulting in lapses in quality of care. Adults who are obese are twice as likely to be admitted into a nursing home in the first place, according to this study.

Some of the equipment facilities say they need to provide proper case:

  • Bigger wheelchairs;
  • Motorized lifts;
  • Bedside toilets;
  • Chairs in the shower;
  • Longer blood pressure cuffs;
  • Longer intramuscular needles.

The cost for a mechanical lift alone is about $10,000. If a facility needs a single, extra-wide bed, they’ll have to pay about $5,000.

Additionally, patients who are immobile need to be turned and moved on a regular basis to avoid the development of painful pressure sores. More staff members are needed to safely move larger patients, and many facilities are understaffed as it is. Failure to abide by necessary protocols for moving patients could contribute to rising fall rates among patients, as well as injury to workers. In cases where patients aren’t moved as often as they should be, patients risk development of sores and infection.

Making matters worse is the fact that because placement can be difficult, sometimes larger patients have no choice but to seek care at a facility farther away from family and loved ones. That contributes to feelings of isolation and depression, but can also put a patient at higher risk for nursing home abuse because without frequent contact from family, they are more vulnerable.

Ultimately, these are issues that policymakers need to get behind because failure to provide appropriate equipment, training and staff will lead to an increase in nursing home negligence lawsuit.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.

Additional Resources:

Rising Obesity Puts Strain on Nursing Homes, Dec. 15, 2015, By Sarah Varney, Kaiser Health News

More Blog Entries:

Study: 10 Percent of Older Americans are Victims of Abuse, Nov. 28, 2015, West Palm Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer Blog

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