Burns, especially from hot water, are some of the most common injuries for people aged 65-79, resulting in about 8,600 emergency room visits annually, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Overall, scalds, or burns attributed to hot liquids or steam, account for 33-58% of all patients hospitalized for burns in the United States. Older adults can be especially susceptible to scalding because their skin is thinner; they often have reduced coordination and mobility, and a lower ability to feel heat due to health conditions or medications. Hot water from faucets is a common source of scald injuries. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, the recommended maximum residential standard is 120°F.
One way you can help protect yourself and your loved ones from scald injury is by installing an anti-scald value, also called a tempering valve, on the water line next to the water heater. An anti-scald valve mixes cold water in with the outgoing hot water to assure that hot water reaching a fixture is at a temperature low enough to be safe. Some plumbing skills are required to install an anti-scald value to the water line so it is probably best seek the services of a licensed plumber. Check out the following websites for additional information:
- Honeywell Thermostatic Mixing Valve
- Guide to Mixing Valves & Anti Scald Valves on Water Heating Equipment
You should also consider what’s called a Temperature Activated Flow Reducer (TAFR). This device will automatically turn off the water flow when the water temperature gets too hot.
HotStop’s anti-scald faucet reduces water flow to a trickle when the water reaches an unsafe temperature. As soon as the water in the line cools, the flow restarts, often within 30 seconds. It works through the use of a thermostat designed to trigger at a pre-determined temperature. HotStop’s faucets cost between $45-50. Other companies that make similar products include ScaldShield and Hydroguard.
Regardless, everyone should always be sure and check the water temperature by hand before stepping into a bath or shower. This brings us to another important safety tip. Falling in the tub or shower is dangerous enough, but when the fall is in scalding water the risk of serious injury or even death is multiplied. If your senior has mobility or coordination difficulties, it might be a good idea to consider installing grab bars, a shower seat, or a transfer bench.
Bathrooms and kitchens are undoubtedly dangerous places. The potential for falls, burns, and accidents in general is high enough without including reduced motor skills or sensory loss. Fortunately, there are products readily available that can greatly reduce the probability of an accident and give piece of mind to caregivers and loved ones.