The Obesity Issue
Last week I heard a statistic about obesity in the United States. Currently 36% of all Americans are obese, with the number higher in the older population, according to a recent survey. I don't know if the number is accurate but it's probably close. That is a scary number for PTs since the majority of our patient population falls into the older category.
Obesity has become more and more common in our patients. Treating obese patients requires special equipment, extra staff and more time. All of those are becoming harder and harder to come by in the PT world. Hospitals have no choice but to purchase "big boy" beds. "Big boy" wheelchairs and RWs are a different matter. The last two facilities I've worked at had one of each.
If getting the equipment is difficult, actually performing the therapy is worse. It isn't that they are awful patients. If you're obese and you go to a rehab facility, you aren't going to get the same therapy as your slimmer roommate. We don't have the equipment or staff to aggressively mobilize you.
This problem is going to get worse as the older population increases. And it won't get solved. It's pretty clear what's coming. There will be no additional resources available but the demands will increase.
I've evaluated hundreds of SNF patients. They are always shocked when they realize the difference between what they expected and what they are receiving. The perception seems to be, "The rehab facility will have everything I need waiting for me." This includes medications that can't be ordered until the patient arrives.
Now add in the obesity factor. There are so many ways it can go bad. We PTs will do what we always do and give our patients the best care possible with what we have. It will just be harder.