Posted on February 4th, 2014 by Zane Cagle
Advances in health care, economic prosperity and injury prevention has increased the average American’s life expectancy. As increase in the older adult population occurs, the number of older adults is expected to double between now and 2050. So, if you are reading this, you may be one of those older adults by 2050 that I’m talking about, I will be! But, unfortunately, with increasing years, we develop risk factors for burn injuries for many reasons:
Physical changes: Older adults experience a variety of changes from physical to cognitive changes associated with the aging process which make them more vulnerable to fire and burn injuries.
- Significant changes in sensory perception. The ability to see, hear and feel potential fire and burn dangers diminish proportionally as we get older. Diminished eyesight may make it difficult to realize that burner is still on, diminished hearing may cause one to not hear a smoke alarm. Decreased sense of touch due to peripheral neuropathy, common in diabetes may lead to a significant burn injury for an older adult that they do not even realize. Older adults also have thinner skin which results in more severe burns with the same exposure time and contact as a younger person
- Reduced mobility causes an older adult to be less likely to escape a fire. Normal aging process, paralysis from a stroke, or a degenerative disease such as arthritis or osteoporosis may make it difficult for an older adult to leave a fire situation. A lifetime of possession may also add to the fire risk and make escape more difficult.
- Older adults are less likely to recognize danger due to cognitive changes resulting from stroke, organic causes, medications or alcohol impairment all of which may interfere with their ability to recognize dangers of fire or burn.
Poverty. Approximately 20 percent of the older population live at or below the poverty line, compared with 10 percent of the population aged 18 to64. Poverty has long been associated with an increase in fire risk. Individuals living below the poverty line are less likely to receive and comply with fire safety messages for a variety of reasons.
- Low household income limits the extent to which a home is equipped with fire protective measures. Housing for low-income tenants is less likely to be properly maintained. If homeowners, they are less likely to be able to afford to install and maintain safe heating systems or to replace malfunctioning equipment
- Fire and burn safety hazards may not rank as high on the concern risk for low-income older adults who are primarily thinking about meeting basic needs for food, shelter, health care and personal security.
Fire and Burn Death Injury Statistics
More than 25% of all fire deaths and one-third of all residential fires occur in the population of 65 and older. More than 1,200 Americans aged 65 and older die yearly due to a result of fire. Older adults, ages 65-75, have twice the fire death rate of the national average. Those between 75 and 85 have three times the national average and the rate for those above 85 is four times the national average. One-fifth of people greater than 65 years of age die in fires are bedridden or challenged in some other physical disability. While the leading cause of death by fire is smoking, the leading cause of injuries is cooking related. Scalds, electrical and chemical injuries also result in serious injuries to older adults
- Fires and burns are a leading cause of deaths from unintentional injuries among older adults
- Approximately 3000 older adults are injured during residential fires each year
- Cooking fires are the leading cause of injuries due to fire
- Older adults living alone have a 30% or greater risk of unintentional injury
- 2/3 of burn injuries to the elderly occur when the victim is sleeping or trying to escape a fire
Ways to Help Older Adults Reduce Risk for Fire and Burns
- Help older adults understand that they are at risk even though they have the experience of age
- Organize adult communities and complexes and set up support systems
- Utilize neighborhood associations
- Disseminate information through community centers, grocery stores, church’s, civic organizations and restaurants as well as family gatherings
If you know an older adult or if you are an older adult, refresh them or yourself with burn prevention information. Check on smoke detector batteries and develop a “buddy system” for frequent checks on the older adult’s status. During peak heat and cold seasons, check on the older adult regarding room temperature and how they are heating/cooling their space. Older adults are just like everyone else in that they do appreciate if you take the time to care about their safety.
Whether injuries are caused by accidents in the kitchen, house fire, steam or a failed product (product liability), you may need a personal injury attorney who is an expert in burn injuries.
If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident that may have been caused by the negligence of another, you may need a personal injury attorney. Our attorneys understand burn injuries and the regulations and precautions that need to be taken by various institutions. If you are not sure if you need an attorney, a no-obligation call for information is always an easy solution. Call us locally (314) 276-1681 or toll free (800)685-3302
Source: .Be Burn Aware. Shriners Hospitals for Children