According to the World Health Organisation, the figures for obesity within the world's adult population have almost doubled since 1980, with 600 million people recorded as obese in 2014.¹ As the number of overweight people continues to rise, so does the pressure on hospitals and healthcare workers to address the issue, both practically and psychologically.
In addition to the very real need to install appropriate bariatric equipment such as bariatric hospital beds that can handle the extra patient load, there is also an essential requirement to address the psychological issues that arise for plus size patients receiving treatment within a healthcare setting.
Plus size patients may worry about whether their shape or size may inconvenience staff and other patients, or lead to delays or equipment failure. This can make a healthcare facility stay extra stressful for overweight people, unless they are given some reassurance as to how potential problems can be overcome in a dignified and respectful way.2
- Consult with the patient about any potential problems – Increased training on more empathetic and respectful patient interaction can go a long way towards providing better levels of care and psychological support to plus size patients in a pragmatic and non-judgemental way.
- Check with patients in advance of a hospital visit to see if they need any assistance or special equipment
A hospital or clinic should be able to welcome a patient of any size, without fear of embarrassment or loss of dignity. For example, wider chairs and accessible restrooms for large patients and their family. The bariatric equipment should be readily available without “making a fuss” to find it and have enough space to work.3
By providing equipment, such as bariatric hospital beds, that look as similar as possible to standard beds.5
Assisted toileting and bathing can be embarrassing for any patient, but a plus size person may have additional concerns about the weight tolerance of equipment. Having bariatric bathroom equipment available ensures both comfort and patient dignity.9
Bushard et al10 and Butcher et al11 suggest that when a organisation is developing policies and procedures to manage the plus size person, they should take a broader view in the definition rather than just focusing on body measurements, and consider several other factors that would impact on patient care and staff safety; for example the effect a person’s body shape and weight distribution will have on their functional mobility, the space required to accommodate the individual, their family, care giver(s) and equipment staffing levels to support care provision.
Arjo can provide equipment solutions and educational resources for practitioners to promote best practice, demonstrating that a plus size person can be managed effectively in a suitable environment with appropriate equipment whilst maintaining their personal dignity.