As obesity increases so does the need for products that prevent patient and caregiver injuries
HME providers are increasingly contending with the fact that Americans are getting larger, and that requires a whole new learning curve in regards to which products best serve these patients.
While there are scant statistics regarding the number of morbidly obese Americans — those weighing 300 pounds or more — there are some useful statistics on the number of American adults age 20 or above declared as obese. Obese means a person has a body mass index, the statistical measure of a person’s weight scaled to their height, of 30 or more. (Morbidly obese patients have a BMI of 40 or above.) In that regard, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) reports obesity rates for adults age 20 and older are still alarmingly high at 34 percent.
Determining the reason for this national weight gain is tricky. “Earlier this year, Seca polled hundreds of nurses attending pediatric conferences regarding the contributing factors to obesity, and childhood obesity in particular,” says Bill Morris, sales and support specialist for Seca Medical, a maker of bariatric scales and measurement equipment. “We now know that behavior, genetics and environmental factors all can contribute to people being overweight and obese.
Regardless, the industry has responded to increasing numbers of severely obese patients principally by increasing the weight capacity of various HME products, such as walking aids, wheelchairs, scooters or bath safety equipment, to make them available to the bariatric market. For instance, Seca manufactures scales for the home that can be used by obese patients. However, there is another crucial bariatric consideration, and that is safety. Simple activities, such as standing or sitting down, can pose a risk for serious injury for severely obese patients. In response, bariatric furniture makers are addressing these concerns through creative product solutions.
“In everything we do, we see what we can do to minimize the risk of injury for the caregiver and the patient,” says Steve Cotter, president of Gendron Inc., which manufacturers multiple bariatric homecare products. “If you visualize the average caregiver trying to manage a bariatric patient, you’re opening up yourself to numerous issues.”
For instance, chairs are one seemingly innocuous piece of furniture that can cause accidental injury to both caregivers and patients. The caregiver can hurt his or her back trying to help a patient stand out of a chair, and the patient can put a tremendous amount of weight on their knees.
“The standard sitting position is horrible for overweight people,” says Ben Hubbard, of Carstone Seating, a manufacturer of bariatric seating, which makes a seat called the Baricliner, a motorized recliner for bariatric patients.
Patients operate the Baricliner using a pendant to control four electric motor that let the user adjust the chair; it can recline to a 39 degree angle, raise and lower the occupant’s legs and assist the patient in standing, resulting in increased user and caregiver safety.
Where beds are concerned, Gendron manufacturers bariatric beds with a low deck-to-floor height to minimize the impact of any falls. Also, bariatric bed makers provide varying surfaces to prevent pressure sores in severely obese patients.
Besides safety, bed logistics should be a concern for HME providers, Cotter says. As HME providers serve growing numbers of obese patients, they must familiarize themselves with the various features bariatric seats and beds can involve, such as trapeze bars for patients to grab onto, or whether or not a bed can adjust to fit into the home.