Scalding accidents in older people
For older people the rate of risk for severe accidents involving burns and scalds is lower than other age groups.
However, older people are at the highest risk of fatal injuries from burns and scalds - four to five times greater than the population as a whole. Pre-existing conditions often contribute to their deaths.
Older people may also have conditions that make them more prone to falls in the bath or shower.
Older people have thinner skin so hot liquids cause deeper burns after only a brief exposure. Their ability to feel heat may also be decreased due to certain medical conditions or medications so they may not realise the water is too hot until injury has occurred.
Because they have poor microcirculation, heat is removed from burned tissue rather slowly compared to younger people.
Preventing a scald in the bath
Water, at the point of delivery to the bath, should be no more than 46°C to help prevent scalding.
When running a bath, turn the cold water on first.
Fit a thermostatic mixing valve.
Install grab bars and non-slip flooring or mats in baths or showers if someone is unsteady or frail.
Use a shower chair or stool when bathing or showering if standing unassisted is a problem.
Provide a way to call for help (bell or whistle) for people who may need assistance or may be unable to remove themselves from the bath or shower in case of emergency.
Preventing scalds by tap water which is too hot
Tap water scalds are almost completely preventable, through a combination of behavioral and environmental changes. Tap water scalds, common among older adults and those with disabilities, are often more severe than cooking related scalds. For these high risk groups, hospitalisation is longer and recovery more difficult.
Tap water scalds to older adults or someone with a disability usually happen when they slip in the bath or shower, when a carer fails to recognise that the water is too hot, when water temperature fluctuates due to running water in other parts of the home, or when a tap malfunctions and the person is unable to escape a burst of scalding water.
Anti-scald devices - thermostatic mixing valves - can simply and inexpensively be installed on most existing
taps and showers.
Preventing a scald elsewhere in the home
the use of coiled kettle flexes or a cordless kettle
the use of jug kettles and boil only sufficient water for immediate needs
not carrying hot liquids further than necessary. Try to re-arrange tea/coffee-making area to accommodate this.
the use of rear hot plates and turn the pan handles away from the front of the cooker