The NY Times recently reported the difficulty nursing homes taking care of obese residents. “Obesity is redrawing the common imagery of old age: The slight nursing home resident is giving way to the obese senior, hampered by diabetes, disability and other weight-related ailments. Facilities that have long cared for older adults are increasingly overwhelmed — and unprepared — to care for this new group of morbidly heavy patients.”
Cheryl Phillips, a senior vice president at LeadingAge, an association of nonprofit providers of services for older adults. “We don’t have adequate staff. We don’t have adequate equipment. We don’t have adequate knowledge.”
The percentage of those entering American nursing homes who are moderate and severely obese — with a body mass index of 35 or greater — has risen sharply, to nearly 25 percent in 2010 from 14.7 percent in 2000,according to a recent study, and many signs suggest the upward trend is continuing. The problem is especially acute in the South, where obesity rates first skyrocketed decades ago and extreme obesity — a 40 B.M.I. and above — continues to rise.
“It’s really not a moneymaker,” said Aundrea Fuller, an owner of Generations of Red Bay, a private, for-profit facility. “One or two places that have tried to do it recognize the economics just don’t work,” said Dr. David Gifford, the senior vice president of quality and regulatory affairs at the American Health Care Association, an industry trade group.
Weight loss can be dangerous for obese patients who, despite their size, lose muscle mass and can become frail, placing them at risk for fractures.