By increasing the availability of health insurance to millions of Americans, the Affordable Care Act has also increased the number of patients seeking treatment. Accordingly, many hospitals, nursing homes, and caretaker facilities are undergoing huge expansions and renovations--and the most astute of these facilities have recognized that not only must they be prepared for more patients, they must be ready to treat a certain type of patient.
A quick review of the staggering facts shows that, for better or worse, Americans are growing in size:
- If current trends continue, 43% of Americans will be obese by 2020
- In some states, 50% of the population will be considered obese by 2018
- On average, men and women are about one inch taller than they were in 1960
- Obese patients are far more likely to be hospitalized because they're more likely to suffer from other serious diseases
- In 2013, 179,000 patients underwent bariatric surgeries
More Patients, More Bathrooms, More Problems
Unfortunately, standard hospital equipment and devices were not developed with these patients in mind, and obesity encompasses a tremendous weight range: anywhere from 250 to 1,200+ pounds. Additionally, given the nature of their condition--to say nothing of the other diseases they're more likely to suffer from--obese patients are more accident prone.
Narrowing the problem, however, a study revealed that one particular room is the most dangerous: the bathroom. Designed years--even decades--ago for smaller individuals, most bariatric hospital commodes are ill-equipped for obese patients. The rooms are usually too small, and the porcelain, wall-mounted toilets have maximum weight capacities of only a few hundred pounds.
Architecturally-designed Restrooms to the Rescue
Oddly enough, neither the Affordable Care Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act mandate special accommodations for obese patients. They don't even qualify obesity as a legal disability, removing many of the legal protections and requirements for this type of patient.
Thankfully, architects planning and building the latest expansions--aided by available data and the input of facility staff--are designing restrooms for obese patients. They've come up with a few basic specifications to guide their efforts:
- Toilets should be floor-mounted to avoid separation from the wall
- Toilets should be stainless steel, with seats measuring up to 42 inches in circumference
- Toilets should be spaced apart from the sink and/or wall to allow a nurse or caretaker to stand on either side of the patient
- Bathrooms should be large enough to fit mechanical lifts to raise patients if necessary