Older adults are at greater risk for burn injuries, especially within the home environment. Why? The skin of elderly individuals is thinner and prone to burning more rapidly. In fact, according to The American Burn Association, adults over 85 years old are four times more likely to die from a burn injury. As well, elderly people may suffer from conditions as mild as poor eyesight or as severe as frequent falling and therefore are more prone to injury. Certain medications may impair balance and other bodily functions, putting older adults at increased risk.
Which Precautions Can Reduce Burn Injury Risk?
Let’s begin in the kitchen of your home, where burn injuries are most likely to occur.
You may have heard that it is unwise to use your stove or oven to create additional warmth in your home on those chilly winter days. But have you considered how wearing clothing with loose or long sleeves might also be a hazard when cooking, especially when using a gas stove? Encourage your elderly loved one to be mindful of this fact when using the stove. Additionally, remind your loved one to never leave food cooking on the stove unattended for long periods of time, or to begin cooking after taking medication that may make him or her drowsy. Finally, never pour water onto a grease fire in an attempt to douse the flames, as this will only make the fire worse. Instead, smother the flames with a pot lid. Better still, keep a small fire extinguisher in your kitchen and teach your entire family how to use it properly.
If a burn should occur, follow these 4 steps:
- Use cool, not cold, water to halt the burning process.
- Remove any clothing, jewelry or other items from the area of the injury.
- Cover the injury with bandages. (A clean, dry sheet will do in a pinch.)
- Seek immediate medical attention.
With some forethought and planning, you and your elderly loved can remain safe from burn injuries at home.