According to the New York Times, obesity rates in the United States jumped from 14.7 percent in 2000, to almost 25 percent in 2010. In only 10 years, the obesity rate in the United States jumped seven percent, and that is not good news for a population that is aging. As the Baby Boomer generation prepares to celebrate their golden years of retirement, the nursing home care system finds itself under increasing financial strain. The end result is that the nursing home system within the United States is finding it difficult to place obese patients into long-term care facilities, and the problem is getting worse.
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At the heart of the obesity problem in an aging American population are the costs of caring for larger patients. Many obese patients cannot move on their own, which means they require special equipment to get out of bed and move around. The reinforced beds and wider wheelchairs that facilities need to accommodate patients are extremely expensive, and the costs are not getting absorbed by the government.
While almost 60 percent of all nursing home care patients are covered by Medicaid, the Medicaid system does not reimburse facilities for this special equipment. If a facility is going to give personal care to obese patients, it either does so at a loss or finds a way to charge obese patients more for their services. While that sounds like a logical approach, there are legal problems to deal with.
The Americans with Disabilities Act outlines several specific conditions that cannot be discriminated against in any way. The problem is that obesity has been left as a gray area that allows nursing homes to reject obese patients for any reason at all. There are a handful of instances where obese patients have used the ADA successfully to be admitted to long-term care facilities, but those instances are few and far between.
Even if the courts rule that a nursing home must accept an obese patient, there is no consideration for the costs associated with taking care of that patient. Obese patients require more medication, food, and nursing assistants for their personal care. It is a cost that could, at some point, cause facilities to have to make difficult decisions.
According to the Rand Corporation, one in three Americans are obese, and that number is rising. Younger people who are too obese
to take care of themselves are starting to take up beds in long-term care facilities that used to be reserved for the aging. Not only does the system have to worry about a growing number of obese seniors that are difficult to place in long-term care facilities, there is also the growing problem of younger people who need care as well.
This problem is only going to get worse as the obesity rate in the United States continues to rise. As more obese seniors turn to the ADA for legal help in finding a place to get care, the financial costs being assumed by these facilities are causing severe financial strain. With more younger people in need of long-term care in nursing facilities, the issue of what to do with obese seniors is headed towards being a significant problem in the near future.
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