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The Bariatric Surge:  Meeting the Need of Heavier Patients for Mobility

According to the Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) more than one-third (34.9%.or 78.6 million) of adults in the United States are obese. Chances are your practice includes many heavy patients as you treat them for weight-related conditions including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and some cancers.

Along with their ill health, or simply due to normal aging, comes the increased need for heavy patients to use a bariatric mobility device. The mobility industry considers 300 pounds as the bariatric category and has developed specialized products to fit the need.

Mobility Needs of the Obese

The bariatric patient is not just heavier. Each has their own diagnosis and capabilities for the physician to consider in recommending an assistive device. In addition, the lack of mobility in obese patients often causes them to be confined to their homes—and often to have difficulty moving around the home itself--leading social isolation and depression that can worsen their mental and physical condition.

Patients need a mobility device that allows them to remain in their home and accomplish daily activities for themselves rather than entering an institutional setting. It’s the best means to maintain their dignity, and continue living life with freedom and independence to enjoy their daily life.

However, heavier patients find it difficult, if not impossible, to maneuver efficiently and safely using a traditional power chair—much less a manual wheelchair. In addition, their  clinical conditions must be taken into account when determining the type of bariatric power chair, including seating, positioning, foot rests, and specialized accessories.

Engineering a Bariatric Power Chair

Mobility manufacturers have engineered specific bariatric power chairs designed for the limitations and requirements of heavier patients.

When recommending a power chair for a bariatric patient, however, it’s important to remember that the chair cannot simply be larger. It must also take into account the full range of factors that make the chair fully suitable for the bariatric patient. It’s not as simple as building a chair that will hold extra weight; a true bariatric power chair must be customized based on the patient’s specific medical issues.  

Hoveround’s bariatric models are designed to not only support the user’s weight, but to support that weight on the likely terrain on which it will operate and the patient’s condition. Tom Kruse Jr, Customer Solutions Manager, emphasizes that “There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach when it comes to power mobility solutions. Every customer has different needs and body types so we also customize our bariatric models to ensure our users receive the safest and most reliable unit available.”

Hoveround’s bariatric options include the Teknique XHD Heavy Duty Power Wheelchair designed for users up to a 450 lb. weight capacity and the Teknique HD6 Bariatric Power Wheelchair for users up to a 600 lb. weight capacity. Each incorporates engineering standards that go far beyond industry standards. “Every Hoveround is meticulously tested in what we call our ‘torture chamber,’ says Kruse. “We want to ensure that customers receive the most robust, reliable, and dependable power chair available.”

More powerful motors and larger batteries ensure that bariatric units have the power and range necessary for all-day use. And that’s just the beginning. To ensure the safety for users between 451-600 lbs., Hoveround lowers the center of gravity on the equipment by using smaller tires on the Teknique HD6. The HD6 also is designed for a slower speed limit which is determined to be more appropriate for those users. Dual casters on the rear provide the extra support and traction necessary to support the user’s weight.  

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Hoveround also customizes the bariatric chairs to the medical need, offering extra large seat sizes up to 25” wide to accommodate the user’s height and weight and taking into account the information and written orders provided by the patient’s physician.

“With more experience than any provider in the industry, we’ve gotten pretty good at determining the best seat to meet a particular individual’s needs, says Kruse. “We won’t leave a chair behind unless the user is 100% comfortable.”

A Hoveround Mobility Specialist completes final adjustments in the patient’s home. Armrests are adjusted for height, width or angle. The joystick can be moved to either side. Seat height can be raised or lowered and the seatback can be adjusted to ensure all-day comfort.

Hoveround also offers specialized seat pans and cushions to meet advanced seating needs for those with a history of skin breakdown, pressure ulcers, or inability to weight shift.  A variety of positioning aides are available to ensure the patient receives the most appropriate equipment based on the doctor’s assessment and written order.

Gone are the days when heavier patients had to suffer from lack of mobility or uncomfortable choices. Bariatric power chairs give them the power to enjoy life. 
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Obesity Data
The Journal of the American Medical Association
Mobility Management

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