Accuracy with weight measurements is essential for residents in the long-term care setting. Weight measurement is used to calculate energy, protein and fluid needs. It is used as an indicator of nutritional and health status and changes in weight can often indicate other medical changes. Inaccurate weight measurements can result in an increased number of “unplanned” weight changes in the facility and affect the plan of care for the resident.
Key points to consider in assuring weight accuracy:
- If possible, have the same staff member responsible for obtaining all weights. This will assure consistency of procedure.
- Weigh residents at the same time of the day, in the same weight clothing each time they are weighed.
- Use the type of scale appropriate for each individual resident’s weight, medical condition and ability to ambulate; balance scale to zero before weighing.
- Document type of scale used for measurement.
- If weighed in wheelchair, make sure to subtract weight of wheelchair from weight obtained.
- Be aware of casts, full catheter or colostomy bags, splints, prosthetics and other devices that can affect weight and document if these items are present.
- Compare weight to previous weight; if a large variance is noted (greater or equal to 5#) make sure to re-weigh the resident to verify the weight. If any weights are found to be incorrect, note them as an “error” with staff initials or follow your facility procedure.
- Calibrate scales at least once a month using manufacturer’s instructions for calibration to assure accuracy; if scale is electronic, batteries should be changed regularly.
- Make sure to obtain accurate heights on residents in order to calculate body mass index (BMI).
Take the first step to proper weight documentation by reviewing your weight policy and procedure. Make sure all staff are aware of the importance of accurate weights for all residents.