Call Now:

(312) 609-0400

Call Us for Free Consultation

Call Now: (312) 609-0400

Close this search box.

High Obesity Rates Strain Nursing Homes Ability To Care For Residents

Obese senior man holding having chest pain in nursing home

or fill out the Contact Form

High obesity rates are straining nursing homes’ ability to care for their residents. Patients that are severely or morbidly obese require specialized tools and attention with which most nursing homes are not equipped. This problem affects both new and old nursing home facilities which have not adapted to the new landscape.

Obese senior man holding having chest pain in nursing home

Obesity Rates

The familiar imagery of old age was a frail and slight nursing home resident. However, that common assumption is giving way to residents who are hampered by obesity. The percentage of people entering nursing homes who are moderate to severely obese has increased from 14.7 percent in 2000 to almost 25 percent.

It is estimated that by 2040, more than 82 million Americans will be 65 or older. Moreover, it is expected that 38 percent of Americans over 60 are obese while one in 20 adults is rated extremely obese.

A person is assessed as moderate to severely obese if their body mass index (“BMI”) is 35 or greater. BMI is a measurement tool that estimates body fat content by dividing a person’s weight (mass) by their height. The BMI assumes that people of a particular height should weigh a certain amount.

Problems with Providing Care

Patients who are moderate to severely obese require specialized care to address their attendant medical issues, and they need specialized equipment to help nurses provide care.

Many nursing homes report that they are overwhelmed by the number of obese residents and are unable to provide many of them with the necessary level of care.

For example, a morbidly obese resident requires a team of nurses and a mechanical lift to leave his bed. The mechanical lift is an expensive and specialized tool that many nursing homes cannot afford. Moreover, even those nursing homes that can afford the mechanical lift, do not own enough to equip 25 percent of their beds with them.

(Article continues below Infographic)

High obesity rates infographic

Furthermore, even for the nursing homes that do offer mechanical lifts, nurses are at higher risk of injury. Nurses that care for obese patients report higher rates of back injuries and therefore increase costs on nursing homes.

Even nursing homes that receive subsidies from Medicare and Medicaid cannot afford the specialized equipment to care for obese residents. Medicaid, which provides funding for 60 percent of all nursing home residents, does not reimburse nursing homes for the specialized equipment to care for obese patients. For instance, obese residents need:

  • Larger wheelchairs;
  • Longer needles and blood pressure cuffs;
  • Mechanical lifts;
  • Extra wide beds;
  • Reinforced shower chairs; and
  • Bedside commodes.

These specialized tools are expensive; the average mechanical lift costs around $10,000 while larger beds cost $5,000.

The American population is shifting faster than nursing homes can adapt.

Moreover, obese patients require additional specialized medical care. For example, obese patients are unable to leave their beds which then requires nurses to shift them every few hours to avoid the development of pressure ulcers which can lead to serious complications.

Furthermore, obese residents require additional medication to address weight-related ailments like diabetes. Many of these residents require a level of care that most nursing home staff are ill-prepared to offer.
Nursing homes are also wary because they may lack the ability to quickly move these patients to a hospital should an emergency arise. Their inability to quickly move them to a hospital increases their liability and insurance costs.

Nursing Homes Decline Care

Due to the high costs associated with caring for obese residents, very few nursing homes are equipped to care for obese residents, especially residents that exceed 350 pounds. While there is no national census on the total number of beds, most industry experts do not believe nursing homes accept more than a mere handful.

Moreover, even the nursing homes that did offer care are shutting down their specialized facilities. For example, Genesis HealthCare, one of the largest nursing home chains recently closed its bariatric care program. Most nursing experts considered their system the model for safely providing care for obese patients. The cost of caring for obese patients exceeds the ability of nursing homes to provide services at an affordable rate.

Furthermore, even the nursing homes that continue to offer care are turning away obese patients. Hospitals

As a result, nursing homes across the country routinely deny referrals from hospitals for obese patients. The effect is to push the problem onto hospitals which are not designed for nor equipped to provide long-term care.

Americans with Disabilities Violations

Some industry experts argue that routinely denying obese patients could be a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”). However, the issue of obesity and its attendant healthcare problems qualifying as a disability under the ADA is an unsettled area of law.

Share This Article

As the founder of the firm, Neal has devoted his life to working for the worker. His achievements are numerous and beyond reproach. He is most proud of his work in helping clients obtain valuable benefits, such as a wheelchair ramp to his home or lifetime medical care.

or fill out the Contact Form

As the founder of the firm, Neal has devoted his life to working for the worker. His achievements are numerous and beyond reproach. He is most proud of his work in helping clients obtain valuable benefits, such as a wheelchair ramp to his home or lifetime medical care.

Related Articles

Depressed senior man sitting on bench. Nursing home neglect
Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect

Nursing Home Neglect: Is This Silent Killer Lurking in Your Loved One’s Home?

Nursing home neglect is on the rise in Chicago, Illinois, with residents reporting emotional abuse, physical abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. Common signs of neglect include lack of basic amenities, unclean environment, unexplained changes in behavior, and isolation.

Cropped of female social worker helping senior woman to walk with walker at home. nursing home laws and regulations
Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect

How Nursing Home Laws and Regulations Protect Residents in Illinois

The Department of Health in Illinois (IDPH) conducts annual inspections to ensure care facilities observe state-specific nursing home laws and regulations. On the other hand, CMS ensures that nursing homes that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding comply with federal regulations, like the Nursing Home Reform Act.

A group of seniors smiling together while in a retirement home
Nursing Home Abuse & Neglect

What Are a Nursing Home Resident’s Rights?

The Nursing Home Reform Act is a federal law that was passed in 1987 and established a set of minimum standards of care for nursing homes that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs. It requires states to enforce these standards through regular inspections and monitoring.

Get a FREE Consultation:
We want to earn your business.

    Lawyers logos
    Lawyers logos