Like the rest of the world, there is a considerable amount of the population within Australia that is obese or overweight. The term bariatric is used for those who are clinically severely obese or those who are exceptionally large. Bariatric size can be due to insufficient physical activity, unhealthy diets and certain medical conditions. Those who are bariatric are at risk of heart disease, type two diabetes, stroke, hypertension and kidney failure. Risk factors need to be considered such as osteoarthritis, sleep apnoea, gall bladder disease, joint disease, incontinence and cancers.

Medical conditions that are combined with being severely overweight can cause people to tire out quickly, have restricted movement, be short of breath, and suffer back or joint pain. 

A person’s ability to participate in community and household activities is reduced, which makes it hard to carry out normal daily activities like showering, dressing and toileting. Bariatric individuals can become depressed, suffer low self-esteem, social isolation and anxiety. There is plenty of commercially available equipment that has been designed for bariatric people. Some bariatric equipment available includes the following:

  • Mobility scooters
  • Manual and powered wheelchairs
  • Powered equipment to help with the manual moving of chairs and beds
  • Walking frames
  • Shower chairs
  • Toilet seat raisers and commode chairs
  • Weighing scales for both ambulant and non-ambulant people
  • Ceiling track hoists
  • Lifters and slings
  • Pressure mattresses
  • Lounge chairs with electric lifts
  • Electric beds
  • Aids to help with turning in bed

Hoists and slings

To help reduce the strain placed on staff and the effort that is needed to move bariatric patients, there are mobile hoists and power-assisted hoists. Ceiling hoists provide horizontal powered movement along a track and standard powered vertical lifts.

The powered options are more expensive, but they require fewer carers which lowers the risk of carer injuries. When using a hoist, consider a spreader bar with four attachment points. This allows the patient to be lifted more securely and comfortably compared to when using the two-point machines.

Bariatric slings come with reinforced stitching and extra padding with a design that even accommodates larger thighs. There are powered conversion systems that can be added to equipment like wheelchairs, so staff have more power when tackling hills and ramps. You may consider getting a powered wheelchair instead of a manual push wheelchair if the user can no longer push the chair themselves. You do not want to be buying one straight off the bat as it takes away the physical activity the user is getting by pushing the wheels themselves.

Mobility scooters

There are types of scooters that are suitable for bariatric people, but there are a few factors that will hinder their use. Scooters do require a lot of space to turn around in due to how large and wide they are. The combined weight of the bariatric person and the scooter will need to be taken into consideration when using ramps such as on a bus. There will be a weight capacity on-ramps, so this should be checked before using.

When looking for bariatric equipment, try and find ones that have more than one function, which means you won’t need as many pieces of equipment in the one space. You can also reduce the cost by doing this. If reaching becomes difficult you can use brooms or dustpans that come with extra long handles, shoehorns, shower hoses, long-handled sponges and sock aids.

Your local council will have contact details for places that you can hire from if you are just temporarily looking after a bariatric client. Medical equipment rental is cost-effective for short term use.