Paying A Heavy Price: Costs of Care for People with Severe Obesity in Nursing Homes

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The prevalence of resident obesity in nursing homes has increased dramatically from 22% to 28% between 2005 and 2015. To provide care for people with obesity, nursing homes have changed their admissions, staffing, and equipment, but underlying these changes are increased resources and financial costs of care. The purpose of this study is to describe nursing home organizational aspects of caring for older adults with obesity, with a focus on economic factors, from the perspective of nursing home staff and leadership.This qualitative study used descriptive approaches; data were collected through semi-structured telephone interviews. Of 77 nursing home staff and leaders identified as potential study participants, 6 were ineligible, and 71 participated in the study through interviews conducted from 2019 to 2022.Four primary themes described the issues surrounding cost of care for obesity in nursing homes: inefficient and risky use of staff time in a setting of persistent staff shortage, expensive and unique equipment needs, inadequate general reimbursement with an absence of obesity-specific reimbursement supplements, and competing short and long-term management solutions. This qualitative study of nursing home staff and leadership underscores a need for improved approaches to funding obesity care within existing nursing payment models. The increasing prevalence of obesity and the burden of the costs of obesity care for nursing homes will escalate this need over the coming decade.


The Gerontologist


Oxford University Press


College of Business and Management

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