Over the past several years, obesity has become one of the most serious issues to impact not only the senior community, but Americans as a whole. Technically, a clinically obese individual is someone with a body mass index of 30 or more. It is estimated that there are more than 13 million obese, or bariatric, seniors living in the United States today. As these bariatric seniors continue to age, more and more of them are in need of professional residential care or assisted living as they live out their retirement.
Many obese seniors will actually seek out care at a younger age than their non-bariatric peers. This is because obese individuals tend to have a number of additional health care concerns on top of their existing age-related healthcare needs. These seniors often need specialty care and the assistance of individuals who are trained specifically in working with bariatric patients.
For years, many of these seniors have struggled to find long-term residential care that can meet their needs and provide them with the type of support and assistance that they require. For bariatric seniors, and their loved ones who are looking for assisted living options, the constant struggle to find the right accommodations can be overwhelming. While more and more assisted living communities are accommodating their services to adhere to the needs of their obese residents, there are still several tips that seniors should remember when it comes to searching for the right assisted living or care facility.
Adequate Personal Living Areas
One of the most important features to look for when it comes to finding a bariatric-friendly assisted living community is a facility with large personal living spaces. When looking for a room, make certain there is enough space to not only accommodate furniture, but any wheelchairs or walking aids as well, so seniors can move around comfortably in their new home.
Check for the accessibility in communal spaces as well. Assisted living facilities that are cramped, over-crowded or filled with excess furniture may provide bariatric residents with a significant challenge when it comes to getting around. It is important that all senior residents feel comfortable and have enough space to move around the facility so they can enjoy activity spaces, dining rooms and interact with other staff members and residents outside of their room. Ensuring easy accessibility is a great way to prevent feelings of loneliness and isolation once a senior moves to their new long-term home.
In order to ensure the safety and well-being of any bariatric senior, particularly one that needs extra daily care, it is important that an assisted living facility has the right equipment. Standard hospital beds that are in many nursing homes, typically only hold up to 350 pounds, while wheelchairs and other shower stools and equipment may have similar weight limitations. Check with the facility to make sure that they have adequate equipment to handle heavier seniors and that they have access to tools such as lifts that can help seniors safely move from one space to another when they are physically limited.
In some cases, access to this specialty equipment may come at an extra cost, because some assisted living facilities may not be able to afford keeping these expensive accessories on-hand when they don't have specific patients who need them.
The right staff can be essential to making any assisted living facility feel like a home. Before any bariatric senior moves to a new community, it is important that they get to know some of the staff members. First and foremost, the staff must be caring and compassionate. Many seniors are subjected to comments about their weight, and having community staff members who don’t understand their plight can only make the situation seem worse. Friendly and welcoming staff members can prevent seniors from feeling depressed or isolated as they transition into their new assisted living community.
However, in addition to compassion and understanding, these staff members also need to be specially trained in working with bariatric seniors. Staff members who need to assist fallen bariatric seniors or help with resident transfers need to know exactly how to work with overweight patients in a safe and effective manner. This can prevent both the resident and the staff member from getting hurt. There are many facilities that provide additional training and resources for staff members on these types of transfers. It may be an uncomfortable question to ask, but knowing that the staff can safely move an obese senior off the floor after a fall or from their wheelchair to a bed can help ensure that senior is being taken care of properly.
One of the best things about living in a senior community is all of the activities that these facilities offer their residents. However bariatric seniors need to check with any assisted living community firstto make sure that there are activities that they can participate in. This may mean specialty exercise equipment or facilities, experienced PTs on staff to help bariatric patients, or simply activities that don't require a great deal of physical activity on the part of the senior. If most activities are off-campus and require a bus or shuttle ride, make certain that this shuttle can accommodate larger riders.
Finding the right nursing home or care facility for a bariatric senior may be more difficult or more complicated than finding care for the average senior. However, by taking the time to really assess the particular senior’s needs and to carefully search through available long-term care options, many seniors and their families can find a facility specifically focuses on providing care to bariatric seniors with specific care needs.
For seniors who are still struggling to find the right bariatric-friendly long-term care home, they may want to contact their physician directly. Many primary health care providers are very used to some of the problems that bariatric seniors face when finding an assisted living facility. They may be able to connect seniors and their families with the right nursing home or assisted living facility in their area.