Editorial: THE BIG PICTURE—Preparing for a growth spurt

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I found it more than a bit amusing when TV psychologist "Dr. Phil" McGraw recently wrote a diet book. My first thought was that maybe he should have consulted a mirror first.

After all, it's one thing to pass along folksy advice to the common-sense impaired. It's quite another to dispense weight-loss insights while you're a certified lard bucket.
But when it comes to battles of the bulge, Dr. Phil has plenty of company. I'm finding that the passing years have certainly made me older and wider. And Dr. Phil and I are hardly alone. Let's face it, we're becoming a nation of tubbies.
We're busier than ever, and we have unprecedented access to fast, tasty, cheap, filling food. Combine that with our sloth-like lifestyles, and it's no secret why we're turning into calorie silos.
It's easy to laugh off obesity. But it's one of our nation's most pressing health challenges. Overweight people are more susceptible to heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, breathing problems, incontinence, cancer and other ailments. According to the U.S. surgeon general, more than 300,000 deaths each year may be attributed directly or indirectly to obesity. Looking forward, the numbers are likely to get even worse.
Aging baby boomers might even reverse the trend toward older residents in nursing homes. Disability levels among people in their 30s, 40s and 50s have risen dramatically over the past 20 years, according to a recent study by the Rand Corp. Such people are more likely to have obesity-related illnesses, says Darius Lakdawalla, a Rand economist. This rise in disability could swell future nursing home populations by 10% to 25% over current projections, Lakdawalla says.
To handle overweight and extremely obese people, nursing homes will need more staff and stronger equipment. From a business standpoint, that's a mixed blessing.
On the one hand, more residents usually means more profits. But facilities are going to have to gear up to meet the changing physical and psycho-social needs of younger residents.
Those demands are likely to affect virtually every aspect of running a facility, from purchasing heavier-duty lifts to activities programs that target a younger clientele.
It remains to be seen how facilities will best prepare for this coming weight wave. Just as we are now seeing some operators focus on subacute care, we will probably soon encounter facilities specifically designed with bariatric residents in mind.
But I know what I plan to do: The diet and exercise regimen starts immediately. And sorry, Dr.Phil, but I'm not going to follow your weight-loss example.
I already know what it takes to look like the "before" picture.
John O'Connor, Vice President
McKnight's Long-Term Care News
john.oconnor@mltcn.com
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