It’s a health issue that has been a concern for Americans and healthcare practitioners for decades — the rising obesity rate in America.

The growing population of obese residents should also be top of mind for long-term care facilities, which are likely to see increasing admittance of aging residents with obesity in the near future. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of U.S. adults (39.9%) are obese; and with more than 60% of people aged 60 reaching obesity, homes and facilities need to have care protocols in place to address their unique demands. Individuals suffering from obesity, or bariatric individuals, tend to face a range of life-threatening health issues including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer.

As a result, taking an individualized approach to resident care becomes even more crucial when caring for those with highly-specific needs, like bariatric residents. Recognizing this, many facilities are taking steps to better accommodate bariatric residents, such as developing policies and protocols to accommodate them, installing larger toilets and wider doorways, purchasing or leasing bariatric equipment, conducting staff education and training on correct care processes to minimize risks of injury for care providers, and bulking up supplies of products designed specifically for this group. These steps are all necessary to keep residents comfortable and safe, maintain their wellbeing and dignity, while minimizing infection and injury and improving patient outcomes. By addressing the needs of bariatric resident, facilities can also reduce potential liability risks.

In addition to other serious health risks, bariatric patients are also more prone to stress incontinence and skin conditions such as dermatitis and ulcers, which can further impact their comfort levels and dignity. Due to the prevalence of these outlying conditions, healthcare leaders are developing incontinence and skin care products specifically to meet the unique needs of bariatric residents.

Incontinence briefs for bariatric residents, for example, like SCA’s TENA brand of bariatric incontinence briefs, feature the design and functionality to properly address the continence needs of bariatric residents. Requiring modifications in terms of fit and design, bariatric incontinence briefs tend to feature increased flexibility and stretch, a larger waist size and higher rise, and increased acquisition rates to better absorb moisture. Products need the right combination of fabric and technology to lock in and retain moisture when under pressure due to weight, in order to minimize rewetting and chances of leakage, keeping bariatric residents more comfortable and dry for longer periods of time.

The benefits of addressing bariatric needs go beyond resident comfort, however. For example, continence management for the average resident can place significant demands on facility staff time and costs; and when considering the care of bariatric residents, there are additional demands to be met.  Whether lifting residents from their beds, addressing toileting demands or washing laundry, by implementing an individualized care approach for overweight residents, facilities can reduce the burden on caregivers, while providing added quality of life to residents, ultimately driving better clinical outcomes. Healthcare facilities that become experts in providing bariatric care can stand out in terms of resident satisfaction and wellbeing, earning industry recognition.

Eric Cohen is the absorbent product manager, SCA Americas.