How to Choose the Right Bariatric Beds for Patients

Choosing a bed for a bariatric patient is different than choosing a bed for a person of average weight. When a person is extremely overweight, the bed must include certain functionalities and features that the average size person can do without.

Dr. Kevin Huffman, a board certified bariatric physician and member of the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery and Duane Seiz, COO of Delcrest Medical Services in Ivyland, Pa., which has sold bariatric beds for nearly 15 years, offer tips to help match the right patients with the beds that suit them best.

Check out the premises. Providers should go to the patient’s home and do a walk-through, Huffman says. You might be surprised at what you find. During his evaluations, Huffman says he’s found many patients sleeping on floors or in recliners. It’s also important for providers to be on site so they can actually educate the patient about the bed and answer any questions that they may have. Seiz also is an advocate of site visits. He says it’s important to visit the home to ensure that the area is clean and not cluttered and to ensure that the environment can accept the bed.

Safety Comes First. Before selling a bariatric bed, providers should ensure that the bed meets the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the FDA requirements by testing to the UL 60601-1 and IEC 60601-2-38 standards for hospital beds. These beds must be tested to ensure that they measure up to key safety requirements. The UL60601-1 and IEC 60601-2-38 calls for testing of weight capacity with a safety margin, environmental hazard safety standards and fire hazard safety. Beds undergo extensive testing to avoid bed failure, entrapment issues, law suits, and to ensure the overall safety of both the patient and caregiver. Beds used in hospitals, nursing homes, or other facilities should have a certification safety mark from a National Research Testing Laboratory, which indicates they meet the standards.

Ask Questions. Ask questions such as: How are you getting around the house? Do you have safety bars in the bathroom? Do you have the availability of mobility equipment? What surface are you sleeping on?

Matching the patient with the bed. Dealers must ensure that the bed is rated to fit the patient’s weight and it also has to physically fit the room, says Huffman, who travels extensively educating physicians and hospital staffers about bariatric issues. For instance, providers should never sell a bed that has a 350 pound weight capacity to a 375 pound person. “If a bed’s rated at 350 pounds and a patient over that goes in that bed and injures themselves, the provider’s going to be held legally responsible because they provided that bed to somebody outside of the rating.”

The right stuff. Providers should look for versatility. Beds should have the ability to adjust to different widths and be lowered, Seiz says. The functionality of the beds should allow them to raise the head and get the client into different positions, he added. The high/low feature is extremely important for patient care, Seiz says. Many of the patients are short and have difficulty getting in and out of the bed so anything you can do to make that more convenient for the patient is critical, said Huffman while referring to the ability to raise and lower beds. Huffman believes the lower the bed, the better. Having beds with the ability to be lowered can also serve as a therapy unit for the patient. “If you’re providing physical therapy to these patients, you can do that on the bed, as well,” he says.

Things the bed should offer. Most bariatric patients suffer from other co-morbidities, so they might have dependent edema. Having a bed that articulates is nice in order to bring the feet up to move fluid away from the legs. A bed that rises is also important for some one who has acid-reflux or respiratory problems, Huffman says. Many of these patients go home and are putting pillows under their legs or backs. In the middle of the night, those pillows fall out and they start either refluxing or having breathing problems.

“So I think having an articulating bed that articulates at the foot and head, as well as articulating vertically so they can get in and out of the bed, is important.
Features that help the caregiver. Having a bed that articulates vertically makes it easier for the caregiver to take care of hygiene issues affiliated with cleaning and dressing wounds. Huffman says there have been a number of times where he has seen a caregiver on a stepladder or a footstool. ”What we’re seeing is a lot of injury to the caregiver whether it’s nurses in the hospital or visiting nurses or family members,“ he says. ”They’re injuring themselves with the patient. We’ve got to make sure that we keep the caregivers in our thoughts when we recommend a bed for the patient.“

Importance of the sleep surface. The surface on top of the mattress itself is critical. Huffman says he has patients that are 700 to 800 pounds who do not move, which causes them to get a lot of skin breakdown. In a sleeping surface, patients need something that has a low-coefficient of friction so they’re not abrading the skin. Once the patient has an ulcer in the skin, then they’ll need alternating air systems that will actually rotate and keep them moving from side to side so they’re not breaking down tissue.

Is there room for you in bariatrics? ”The market is growing rapidly because of the epidemic of obesity in the past decade has doubled among adults,“ Huffman says. ”It’s quadrupled among morbidly obese patients, so it’s growing very fast.”

Points to take away:
•    Make a site visit
•    Do a proper assessment of the patient by asking questions
•    Make sure the bed is rated properly to fit the person’s weight
•    Be sure that the bed is wide enough
•    Be sure to offer beds with versatility that are easily adjustable
•    Educate the patient and the health care provider on the bed

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This article originally appeared in the July 2008 issue of HME Business.

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