Families fit stairlifts for obese kids Jul 3 2007 What if you live in a flat, do you get a conveyor belt? http://icwales.icnetwork.co.uk/0100news/0200wales/tm_headline=families-fit-stairlifts-for-obese-kids&method=full&objectid=19395090&siteid=50082-name_page.html by Rhodri Clark, Western Mail THE Welsh obesity epidemic hit a new low yesterday as it emerged more and more families are creating downstairs bedrooms or fitting stairlifts for their obese children. The adaptations are being made for children with weight problems so bad they cannot cope with stairs. Extra-strong beds and chairs, as well as special bathroom and bedroom adaptations, are also in growing demand as the proportion of youngsters classed as obese increases. One company supplying equipment for obese people yesterday reported a dramatic drop in the age of the youngest people needing its products. Experts say the problem has been left far too long if a home needs modifications for a childs obesity, and warn that some mobility aids could end up depriving young people of the routine exercise they need to help them fight the condition. One local authority, Conwy County Borough Council, has revealed it has agreed to home adaptations for at least one clinically obese child. Occupational therapists assessed the boys everyday needs and advised on the changes needed to his home. They have not disclosed the boys age, but use the term child instead of the young person label they apply to older youngsters. The growing number of such adaptations in the UK is a cause for concern for the National Obesity Forum. Chairman Dr Colin Waine said, In the last year or so there have been several cases. It might mean stronger beds. If there are stairs, some may have difficulty in climbing stairs. A stairlift is one of the possibilities, but of course climbing stairs is the kind of exercise they need. In a way its like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted. By then the child will have major health problems and be at increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer or musculoskeletal problems. We ought to be trying to pick up children earlier who show signs of becoming overweight. Some children become overweight because of disability which made it harder for them to take regular exercise. You can also find it with people with certain mental health problems. But theyre the exception. The majority of these people are starting off as normal babies. Aldersley Bariatric Care, which has provided specialist equipment for obese people for 12 years, is receiving more and more orders for items to help young people. Weve certainly seen the age come down dramatically, said director John Chamberlain, Theyre certainly down to early teens. He said young people weighing 12 to 15 stone might need adaptations or specialist equipment for the home. If youre large and you sleep in the classic single bed you would buy domestically, you could turn over and fall out. It can apply to children. They can be quite wide across the hips. In a bed thats 3ft 6in wide, theres not a lot of space to turn over if youre large. Beds made by his West Midlands company have stronger springs than normal beds. Seating for obese people also needed to be bigger and physically stronger than normal. Getting in and out of the bath could be awkward or risky for obese children. If theyve got difficulty with mobility, they could require a hoist to get in and out of the bath, or they would have the bathroom modified and have a walk-in shower. Often bariatric users go from a bath to a shower, at whatever age. Baths are fairly standard, and you would wedge into a bath if youre broad, said Mr Chamberlain. Relocating the bathroom, along with the young persons bedroom, from upstairs to downstairs, might often be preferable to fitting a stairlift. You cant put a wide seat on a stairlift otherwise other members of the household cant get up and down. Requests for equipment or adaptations tended to come not from parents but from local health or social services professionals, or from hospitals preparing to discharge an obese patient. His company always worked with clinical advisers, to avoid installing equipment which could jeopardise a young persons weight-loss plan, he said. Its self-defeating really, because youre making them lazier, said Mr Chamberlain. We always work with the clinical advisers to the patient. We would work with the doctor or therapist. It may well be picked up at the school because of an attendance record. Some obese pupils might be too embarrassed to go to school, others might have difficulty walking to and from school, he added. Dr Beckie Lang, of the Association for the Study of Obesity, said the trend was worrying. Its showing that, for a small number of children, their weight isnt being managed within the home or by health professionals or whoever might be needed to get involved. If its simple obesity with no medical condition causing them to be this big, its a real shame if children are getting to that stage so young that theyre having to have their environment adapted for them simply because of their weight. If they struggle to do certain things in the home, it affects what they can do at their friends houses or out and about. They can potentially become socially isolated, said Dr Lang, who grew up in Old Colwyn. She agreed with Dr Waine that some devices could reduce daily exercise even further, but said some modifications could improve self-esteem. Hopefully they can make positive changes to quality of life. They could improve self-esteem because the person can move around easily or get into a shower or bath comfortably.