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Burns can occur in people of all ages. Older adults, however, are at an increased risk of injury from scalds and burns. They are also at a higher risk of death from accidental fires. The normal changes that occur during the aging process, such as vision changes, changes in comprehension and cognitive abilities, and mobility changes can all make older adults more susceptible to burn injuries. In addition to those normal changes, the use of medication can lead to side effects that further increase that risk.
Injuries that occur in older adults as a result of scalds, burns and fires are dramatically on the rise. The American Burn Association states that in American adults over the age of 65, roughly 1,200 will die every year as a result of injuries from burns or fires.
The second leading cause of burn injuries is scalds, followed by faulty electric and chemical burns. Burn injuries in the older population occur frequently in both the home setting and the nursing home or assisted living environment.
The physical, cognitive and mobility changes that occur with advanced age put older adults at an increased risk of suffering a burn or fire related injury.
An example would be an older adult with impaired vision experiencing a burn to the hand because he was not able to see that the burner on top of the stove was on. In the case of fires, older adults with impaired mobility may not have the motor skills necessary to escape a fire.
Fortunately, nursing homes and assisted living facilities work hard to ensure that the living environment is safe for older adults. Safety measures in place to prevent burns and fire injuries include educating patients, their families and employees about burns, common causes and effective prevention methods.
In the home environment, safety precautions are crucial, especially for older adults who live alone in their home. Of all in-home injuries in the elderly population, burns and fire injuries are the number 2 cause of death due to accidental injury. Children, family members, in-home caregivers and neighbors can all help to prevent burns and fire injuries in older adults living alone at home by taking simple preventive measures. Ensuring that the home environment is free from burn hazards, as well as educating older adults about burn risks and prevention is crucial for preventing burns and fire related injuries.