How to Select and Install the Right Bed for a Bariatric Patient

Sponsored by: Big Boyz Industries

BariatricsThe Journal of Epidemiology reports that men and women who are overweight or obese have an increased risk of mobility limitation compared to people of normal weight. With more than one-third of Americans suffering from obesity (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), selecting an installing the correct bed for bariatric patients are critical for their health and overall quality of life.

“Most bariatric patients need a bed that will not only support their weight but also provide them with enough space to be comfortable when sleeping,” says James R. Scaife, President of Continental Health Equipment. “The bed should also be able to articulate to a sitting position so that the patient is able to sit up to eat and maintain other activities while in bed.”

Scaife points out that beds that do not meet the needs of bariatric patients can lead to depression with the patient. Beds that make patients uncomfortable can also lead to unruly mood changes that patients might direct toward caregivers.

Also, bariatric patients run a high risk of developing pressure sores due to their weight. If an overweight patient is sleeping on the wrong mattress, factors such as shear, heat and moisture can rapidly result in a pressure sore. Moreover, these pressure sores can become infected if left untreated, and that can become a lifethreatening condition.

Picking the right bed

The main differences between beds for bariatric patients and non-bariatric patients are the bed’s size and weight capacity. Picking the proper bed for a bariatric patient can be a lengthy undertaking since there are many areas to consider. According to Scaife, major considerations include:

  • Cost of the equipment
  • Accessories needed for the bed (scale, trapeze, etc.)
  • Available space for the bed
  • Patient needs, such as health complications (amputee, heart failure, inability to help caregiver, etc.)

Providers should go on-site to view where the bariatric bed will be used, talk with the caregiver and interview the patient (if possible) before recommending the type of bariatric bed the patient should get, says Scaife. With that said, Scaife says to keep in mind that the right bed should:

  • Help the bariatric patient when entering or exiting the bed
  • Be able to articulate from a prone position to a sitting position
  • Have the proper width and length that makes the patient comfortable while in the bed
  • Have side rails so the patient feels safe within the bed
  • Provide a durable foam mattress for the patient’s comfort
  • Come with a handheld control that lets the patient easily perform the necessary functions of the bed

“The biggest challenge to installing a bariatric bed is to ensure that the patient’s home has adequate space to allow passage of the bed thru doorways, hallways and into the patient’s room,” says Scaife. “The patient’s floor should also be checked to make sure that it would support the weight of the patient and the bariatric bed.”

Know what goes on top

Bariatric beds offer different types of sleeping surfaces. These include foam mattresses, low air loss mattress systems, alternating pressure mattress systems and rotational mattress systems, says Scaife.

“Usually the patient’s physician will recommend the type of surface that the patient requires,” says Scaife. “ If the patient has skin breakdown the physician will usually require that the patient use either a low air loss or alternating pressure mattress system to help heal the skin breakdown.”

Scaife says bariatric beds should meet the standards of providing a comfortable, safe sleeping environment, as set by the standards of each state. The sleeping surface should also meet the fire codes for the state.

“Over the past few years the number of bariatric patients has increased dramatically,” says Scaife. “Unfortunately the bariatric patient requires special equipment, including beds, wheelchairs, walkers, toilets, etc. The bariatric patient also requires additional space, whether located in a nursing home, personal care, assisted living, or within the patient’s own home. All indications are that the bariatric market is going to continue to increase over the coming years. Therefore, equipment, including the bariatric bed, will need to address the special needs of this group.”

Points to take away:

  • More than one-third of Americans suffer from obesity (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
  • Beds that don’t meet the needs of bariatric patients affect them emotionally as well as physically.
  • Bariatric patients are candidates for pressure sores.
  • Visit the home and interview the patient and caregiver before recommending a bed.
  • When recommending a bed, consider cost, accessories, available space and health complications.
  • Make sure the living space can accommodate a bariatric bed and there is sufficient room to transport the bed to its final destination.

Learn more

This article originally appeared in the July 2010 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

Joseph Duffy is a freelance writer and marketing consultant, and a regular contributor to HME Business and DME Pharmacy. He can be reached via e-mail at

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