Ask the care expert: a few pointers on treating obese residents

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Sherrie Dornberger, RNC, CDONA, FACDONA, executive director, NADONA
Sherrie Dornberger, RNC, CDONA, FACDONA, executive director, NADONA
Some of our residents have been obese and I am concerned for the staff and the residents. I have been asking our assistant DON to give our staff more education. Can you give me a few pointers to help?

First of all, be sure your staff has sensitivity training when caring for these residents. No resident needs to hear name calling or staff talking about how big their bottom or arms are.

Restorative and occupational training would be great. Both of these can help with maintaining independence and mobility. Of course, if a resident is not mobile, be sure the doctor orders physical therapy to help the resident gain strength for walking and/or locomotion in a wheelchair.

Remember that since these residents are heavy, they may not be able to push themselves as far as other residents can; it takes much more strength and endurance to travel the same distance.

If they can't move, perhaps a slide sling will help reduce staff injury. These are inexpensive and save staff's backs when moving the resident into or out of a bed. Make sure the sling and the lift that you are using is for the right weight class. Many regular slings and lifts have a 300-pound capacity limit.

You may also need to use the lift or sling if your bariatric resident has a sore. Check all the skin folds—they need to be kept clean and dry. Caution staff that powder in large amounts will not help dry the skin, and actually will help organisms to grow, which is not a good situation.

If they have a problem in the skin folds—and many residents do, especially in warm weather, because the skin folds stay moist or wet from sweat, which in turn allows organisms and yeast to grow—the doctor, nurse
practitioner or wound nurse can be called in to assist.