Regardless of the reasons, it is an unfortunate fact that there are now more obese people living in the UK than there have ever been.
Whether they are in the healthcare system, the home care environment or in residential care homes, people with bariatric care requirements need specialist equipment and they or the operators caring for them will be looking to mobility dealers for the answers. And it is important that retailers have those answers ready to go. Any that stall risk losing out to competitors.
But dealers are not being left alone in the growing demand for bariatric care provision. Mobility suppliers have spied the opportunities available and already offer a huge range of specialised products and adaptations to current market-leading solutions. All regular sectors of the industry, from bathing through to mobility scooters, are continually seeing new products adapted for larger users and they hold strong prospects for retailers.
“The ‘one size fits all’ era in bariatrics is over. Retailers need to be able to offer bespoke equipment solutions to the individual, with the off-the-shelf convenience of regular items”
Bathroom specialist Closomat, for example, has developed a number of aids, some of which are standalone solutions and others which complement existing equipment. This two-pronged approach is designed to offer a comprehensive solution for the end-user.
The firm’s standard Palma Vita shower toilet is capable of withstanding a weight of 30 stone, which is 25% more than even strengthened versions of similar products, the company claims. Meanwhile, the Aerolet Bariatric electronically-controlled toilet lift complements existing specialist toilets and gently raises and lowers the user while they remain fully seated, supported and in control at all times, ensuring safe, comfortable personal hygiene management.
With choice being so important to the consumer, stocking a wide suite of solutions can help a retailer to gain an edge. For Chris Young, commercial services coordinator for Cefndy Healthcare, supplier of the YESS range of equipment, product choice is more important now than it has ever been.
“The ‘one size fits all’ era in bariatrics is over,” proclaims Young. “The UK has the highest level of obesity in Western Europe according to a 2013 UN Report. The obesity levels in the UK have more than trebled in the last 30 years and the NHS estimates that by 2050 more than half the population could be obese. Equipment needs to be quickly and easily sourced, be innovative to meet the needs of the individual’s body dynamics, promote patient independence and dignity and, more than ever, needs to be affordable. Retailers need to be able to offer bespoke equipment solutions to the individual, with the off-the-shelf convenience of regular items.”
Picking up on the demand for choice, Cefndy’s YESS range comes in three different sizes and aims to offer enough choice so that the products can be readily available for people who would otherwise need to have their equipment specially made.
Closomat too is acting on market trends so that dealer partners can be kept ahead of the curve. Its ceiling track hoist suppliers now provide it with a range of bariatric models which are sold hand-in-glove with mainstream lifting equipment.
Further to this, Closomat’s staff recently learned from moving and handling experts that the provision of equipment in domestic settings was a lot more accepted than that of a care home environment.
In care homes it is common to use more staff for a lift rather than a product that could protect care workers from injury and save money, marketing manager Robin Tuffley says.
In line with this, Beaucare’s managing director, Jonathan Brown, believes there will be an increase in purchases of bariatric patient handling equipment including stand aids and hoists due to the growing number of care homes developing specialist bariatric rooms. Domiciliary care is also on the rise, with elderly people choosing to stay at home instead of opting for a care home.
And like Closomat and Beaucare, adjustable bed specialist Theraposture is seeing more demand for products that reduce carer dependency and enable greater independence. The company’s Rotoflex 300 turning bed system is specifically designed to cater for individuals weighing up to 39 stone and claims to be able to pay for itself within 14 weeks when compared to the high cost of care.
That’s according to sales director Liam Braddell, who says that when looking for a supplier of bariatric equipment, it is essential to ensure that companies state a maximum weight that is less than the safe working load. “In the case of the Theraposture Rotoflex 300, the safe working load is 50kg more than the maximum patient weight. This is a significant difference and is important for maximum safety. Sometimes this critical margin is not made clear by certain bed suppliers,” explains Braddell. “Another major point to consider when selecting assistive beds for bariatric users is that they fully meet current and relevant European standards, namely BS EN 60601-2-52.”
Quality assurance is central to all mobility equipment but especially for bariatric aids which have to be more durable. For Tuffley this means retailers need to be comfortable that when they sell equipment it is backed up by the manufacturer and it is compliant with LOLER regulations, where appropriate. “Getting stuck in a lift is one thing but being stuck whilst suspended by a sling around your hips is a whole other level of urgent. Suppliers need to be able to provide a call-out service that meets both legal and moral obligations,” Tuffley says.
Another thing to look out for when scouting bariatric equipment suppliers is whether the aids are designed to meet individual needs rather than more general requirements. Young outlines that Cefndy’s equipment is easily adapted for each individual’s situation.
“Our plus-size commodes, shower chairs and such are all suitable for up to 50 stone so that you can focus on getting equipment that fits the size and needs of the patient and not worry about weight. Many items in our plus-size YESS range feature optional height adjustability, adjustable and detachable backs, detachable arms and a choice in different types of upholstery. All this comes in an off-the-shelf package so that retailers can sell bespoke equipment without the bespoke prices.”
The company says it takes a different approach to such equipment and that it believes bariatrics is about size, not weight. “It should be about selecting the equipment that will suit the patient and putting them at the centre and not the product itself,” says Young.
It is clear then that bariatric aids are similar to many other sectors of the mobility market in that dealers need to find equipment that is bespoke. It is also similar to segments like adaptive furniture and bathrooms in that it needs to look contemporary and fit stylistically into home environments. This is especially important nowadays where more bariatric aids are being bought so that the user can remain in their own home.
Beaucare keeps this notion in mind with all its equipment including its rise and recliners, which are available in various stylish colours and fabrics. Brown says it is also essential that all medical devices and equipment such as profiling beds are CE marked to current EU medical directive standards, for health and safety reasons and quality assurance. “These products should also be relatively easy to clean and disinfect if required. All of our medical devices are of high quality and comply with these standards,” he comments.
Ultimately, most retailers will know that a quality, bespoke and contemporary offerings are most likely to prove successful in any mobility category. And evidently, suppliers in the bariatric sector show that this type of equipment is no different. If dealers want to share in the expanding success of the bariatric market then it will be important moving forward to look at solutions which lead in both design and functionality. As more and more mobility retailers come on the scene and competition increases, it is these elements of quality and stylish products which will help dealers to stand apart from the rest.
Adapting WCs to accommodate larger users
Whenever there’s discussion about obesity, it inevitably focuses on people’s need to lose weight. Never is their ability to live daily life debated, believes adapted bathroom supplier Closomat. Yet being of large body mass has a huge impact on one’s ability to undertake things ‘normal-sized’ people take for granted, including going to the toilet.
Changing a few things about the WC can have a huge impact on ability to ‘go’, and be hygienically, appropriately clean afterwards.
“Think about it logically, if you are large, the additional body mass impinges on the whole process,” observes Mark Sadler, sales director. “It’s harder to be in the right position over the bowl- front and back. It’s harder to reach one’s private parts to wipe effectively. There is therefore greater risk of urinary and faecal contamination of the user, their clothes, and the ‘bathroom’, and increased danger of a fall as they twist, contort to reach. And if the person is really big, can the WC, with its seat, fixings and brackets, cope with the additional load?”
Toilets, especially pedestal versions with cisterns behind, tend to be standard dimensions. Changing elements such as the toilet seat will help position an obese user in a better position over the pan, and give appropriate, comfortable support to the buttocks whilst they ‘go’. Alternatively, a commode-style bench over the toilet accommodates the positioning needs of even larger users.
A WC with built-in douching and drying overcomes the problems of manually trying to reach to wipe clean; it washes and dries the user without the need for tissue, delivering a consistent, thorough clean every time.