- Nearly half of staff say their care home doesn’t have the right resources and equipment to care for residents over 25 stone
With one in four British adults now obese in older age, which equates to 5.8m people over 65, care homes need to look at how they can accommodate and care for residents that are obese, according to carehome.co.uk, the leading care home reviews website, which found only 41% of care home staff say they have the bariatric facilities to look after obese residents, with one in 10 care home staff (12%) having to turn them away due to lack of resources and equipment.
The figures have been sourced from a survey completed by 2,803 care home owners, managers and staff. The term ‘bariatric’ relates to people who weigh more than 25 stone. Bariatric facilities can include larger, reinforced beds and baths and mechanical lifts and hoists.
Sue Learner, editor of carehome.co.uk, said:
“The number of obese, older people has been rising in the UK for the last couple of decades and care homes need to ensure they are inclusive and that residents who are severely overweight are treated with dignity.
“Some care homes have built bariatric rooms, but over half are unprepared and have no specialist facilities. This inability to provide care for obese people who often have associated medical needs means they are left stranded at hospital or at home.
“The Government needs to be aware that care homes face higher costs if they care for bariatric residents, due to installing special equipment and needing specialist care workers who are trained in moving and handling obese people. It is much more expensive caring for morbidly obese people and care homes should receive more funding from the local authority for residents over a certain weight.”
Severely obese people are more likely to suffer from complex conditions such as cardiac disease, hypertension, respiratory disease and diabetes. In addition, they often require specialist management of their skin as severely obese people have an increased risk of pressure ulcers, wounds and reduced prognosis for wound healing due to their immobility.
Mike Vaughan, owner of Red Rocks Nursing Home in Wirral, Merseyside said:
“I think there should be extra funding for providing care to obese patients as this currently requires specialist and expensive equipment or adaptions, without which we would be unable to provide care to this sector.
“However, it is also vitally important that we do not institutionalise our equipment and functions to suit this care category alone, which might then make clients who do not require these extra services feel as though they have to put up with a more institutional feel to their care than is absolutely necessary. I am aware this may lead to a two tier system with all that come with this.”
Tracy Paine, deputy chief executive of Belong, which has nine care villages in the North West, revealed that the care provider does support people needing bariatric care.
“In each situation, an assessment is made of a person’s individual care requirements, and we work with residents, their families and health and social care commissioners, to determine how we can best provide for the person’s needs and what special provisions will be necessary. Previously, this has led to investment in specialist equipment, including larger beds and aids to assist people to remain as independent as possible.
“Practice development facilitators at each Belong village make sure staff have the skills and knowledge to provide bariatric care, including how to help with aspects of personal care and specialist moving and handling techniques. Staff also have an understanding of medical conditions associated with obesity, such as sleep apnoea and hypertension.”
A manager of a care home speaking anonymously on Mumsnet explains why care homes often don’t want to take morbidly obese people.
She said: “On the surface of it it sounds morally wrong but I think the majority of people don’t understand what the care of an obese person entails.
“If someone is morbidly obese and can just about transfer to the toilet and can do most things with the aid of a carer I can assure you it won’t be long before they are immobile.
“Because of the politics of fat, care homes are not given more money for very large people despite the fact it is SO expensive taking care of them. There would be an uproar if people who needed care were classified as too fat to take up a ‘normal’ place in care. It would be deemed discriminatory, I feel.
“Unfortunately care homes are private businesses and unless they are financially compensated for their time then they lose money. Obese people generally cost MUCH more money than average sized people.
“Nursing/care staff struggle to move the bodies of obese people. It is incredibly hard to clean them (think two staff manually lifting their abdomen up to expose their private area and another staff member to clean it).
“Staff regularly feel the physical strain on their bodies after a shift moving an obese people. Trying to push a wheelchair of an obese person (even with a power pack on the back) leaves staff with pain in their shoulders. This is despite the best and latest bariatric equipment (who pays for that?)
“When I assess a person to see if they are suitable for my home I would pass on a morbidly obese person. If I accepted them I would lose money and my door would be revolving with staff complaining about their concerns about their physical health. My directors would want to know why I put their home at risk from financial loss and at risk litigation from staff.
I feel very obese people should get more money from the Government for their care.”