Brief Report| Volume 19, ISSUE 11, P1015-1019, November 2018

Higher Level of Obesity Is Associated with Intensive Personal Care Assistance in the Nursing Home



      To examine whether higher obesity level was associated with extensive staffing assistance (from 2 or more persons) for completing activities of daily living (ADL) among older nursing home residents.


      Retrospective cross-sectional study.


      US government–certified nursing homes.


      Medicare beneficiaries residing in a nursing home on April 1, 2015. Exclusion criteria were age less than 65 years and body mass index (BMI) below 18.5 (underweight).


      Residents were divided by obesity level according to established BMI cutoffs, as follows: nonobese (BMI = 18.5-29.9) or mild (BMI = 30.0-34.9), moderate (BMI = 35.0-39.9), or severe (BMI ≥40) obesity. Level of staffing assistance for completing each of 10 ADL (bed mobility, transfer, walking in room, walking in corridor, on- and off-unit locomotion, dressing, eating, toileting, and personal hygiene) was dichotomized as below 2 and 2 or more. Robust Poisson regression was used to test whether obesity conferred excess risk for needing 2 or more staff to complete each ADL. Adjusted models included individual-level covariates and nursing home fixed effects.


      A total of 1,063,383 nursing home residents were identified, including 309,263 (29.0%) with obesity. Adjusted relative risks (95% confidence intervals) for 2-person assistance with bed mobility associated with mild, moderate, and severe obesity were 1.17 (1.15, 1.18), 1.28 (1.25, 1.31), and 1.40 (1.36, 1.43), respectively. Adjusted relative risks for 2-person assistance with transferring associated with mild, moderate, and severe obesity were 1.15 (1.13, 1.17), 1.24 (1.22, 1.27), and 1.36 (1.33, 1.39), respectively. Obesity was associated with 2-person assistance for all other ADL except for eating.


      Higher obesity level was significantly associated with assistance from 2 or more staff for completing 9 of 10 ADL. Given increasing obesity rates in nursing homes, payment mechanisms that do not adjust for obesity or comprehensively account for excess ADL assistance may need revision to prevent adverse impacts on the long-term care system.


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