Family guide to bariatric care
Aside from commonly cited lifestyle factors, there are many other possible causes of obesity, ranging from genetic and metabolic disorders to conditions that limit a person's ability to move and take exercise - such as stroke and paralysis.
Regardless of the initial cause of obesity, the condition of being substantially above what is considered to be a normal weight can give rise to a wide range of health problems and can also present considerable challenges for any family members who provide ongoing care.
People who provide bariatric care need to be alert to the possibility of common complications associated with excessive weight and to the elevated risk of associated illnesses such as diabetes. This is particularly true if the person also has very restricted movement because there might then be a significantly higher chance of pressure sores, which can be extremely painful and a potentially dangerous source of infection.
Family carers also need to be conscious of the safety risks that they themselves face, particularly when it comes to day to day handling and other the other forms of assistance they provide in relation to bathing, toileting and moving about the home.
However, since morbid obesity is a widespread and well recognised condition that affects around 1.25 million people in the UK, there are many excellent sources of help and information available, and some very helpful care products that bring greater comfort, safety and convenience into people’s lives. In this short leaflet, we hope to explain the uses of some of them.
Making life easier
As anyone who cares for a significantly overweight relative will know, effective bariatric care involves a lot more than a simple understanding of moving and handling techniques. Such skills are certainly important – for the safety and convenience of both the individual and the carer – but effective care also has implications for comfort, home-life routines and personal dignity.
Accommodating someone who suffers from morbid obesity might entail making modifications to the home – for example, to doorways and other fixtures such as showers and toilets. Changes of this kind make it much easier to perform daily tasks whilst minimising the risk of falls and injuries, and will often enable the individual concerned to take care of themselves with a much greater degree of independence.
In other cases, making the home environment safe and user-friendly might entail the fitting of wheelchair ramps, support rails and other aids to stability, or it might simply be a question of ensuring that beds, mattresses, chairs and other furniture are designed with the needs of a bariatric user in mind.
For family members, it is important to remember that providing good, safe bariatric care need not be something that is very physically demanding. The technologies exist to ensure that all aspects of normal life, from bathing and mobility to getting into bed at night can all be carried out safely, comfortably and reliably without the need for strain.
With the right tools and facilities comes greater confidence in care-giving and this, in turn, can lead to a happier and more relaxed home.
Being substantially overweight can make it hard for someone to do many of the things that others take for granted. Without appropriate aids, moving around the home can become very arduous, as can many other routine tasks. It is for this reason that designers and manufacturers have devised a wide range of care products that alleviate many of the most common difficulties.
Accidents can often occur when getting in and out of the bath or shower, and for an overweight person, sitting right down in the bath or standing for prolonged periods in the shower can be both tiring and uncomfortable. To solve these problems, families can take advantage of products such as bariatric bath seats, sturdy bath steps, shower chairs and toilet surround rails.
Since many overweight people also suffer with diabetes, families might like to consider the many specialist products that can help to minimise the health risks and discomfort associated with the condition. Examples include shock-absorbing insoles and diabetic walkers to help protect the feet, as well as helpful safety aids such as blood sugar alarms.
Dressing & hygiene aids
Stiffness and reduced mobility can make an apparently simple task such as washing or putting on shoes or socks extremely challenging. In response, manufacturers offer sock and stocking aids, extra long shoe horns, long-handled sponges and many other aids to washing and dressing.
Pressure care products
If your family member has very restricted mobility, then there might be an elevated risk that he or she could develop pressure sores. To help minimise the risk of painful ulcers, you might like to consider pressure-care cushions for seats and wheelchairs or a pressure-care mattress for a bariatric bed.
Standing and mobility aids
Immobility is a common problem for people suffering from morbid obesity so designers have created a wealth of supports and technologies to ensure that this does not mean a complete loss of freedom. Examples include things like ankle stabilisers and knee supports, bariatric wheelchairs, walking frames, rollators and stairlifts – amongst many other invaluable aids.
Toileting and bathing aids
People naturally want to preserve their dignity as far as possible when it comes to using the bathroom, so there are many products available that help people to bathe or to visit the WC with little or no help. Some of the most popular aids include toilet support rails, bariatric commodes, bath seats, specialist toilet seats and bariatric hoists.
Support and information
Families providing bariatric care might find the following organisations and websites useful as sources of advice and information.
Obesity and VAT exemption
When someone is buying a product for a person (including themselves) who has a disability, a severe physical impairment or a chronic illness, they are not required to pay VAT on it provided that the item in question is purposely designed as act as an aid to disability or injury. More details can be found on our website.