‘It’s quite distressing and traumatic’: Burns on the up as elderly people try to stay warm

Sister Ann Fowler with patient Madge Griffiths
Sister Ann Fowler with patient Madge Griffiths

Desperate attempts to stay warm in the winter weather have led to an increase in the elderly burning themselves.

Stoke Mandeville Hospital’s burns unit has stressed the importance of not sitting too close to the heater and is now setting up a ‘Learn not to Burn’ campaign to educate the elderly.

Burns unit outreach senior nurse practitioner, Ann Fowler, said: “It’s quite distressing and traumatic for them when they are in pain.”

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents’ statistics indicate that older people are at the highest risk of fatal injuries from burns and five times more likely than the rest of the population.

Sister Fowler said a third of their admissions since December had been the elderly with 70% of that figure related to heater burns.

She added: “If you have been well all your life it’s worse as you get a bit older and a bit frailer. It’s quite sad.

“You get patients from quite a vast population around here. It can be quite disturbing and confusing for them.”

Sister Fowler said the elderly’s attitude of not wanting to cause a fuss can prove detrimental to their health.

She said: “One man had burnt his legs having had leg ulcers in the past. He was walking round his local supermarket and was asked why his legs were so wet. He didn’t want a fuss and said it was nothing to worry about but if he had left it any longer he could have lost his legs.

“These burns were horrible. It took about a week to get him into hospital.”

The nurse said the man had been resting his legs on his heater and had suffered for up to three weeks before going to hospital.

She added simple measures such as putting a fireguard on heaters and ensuring that you are at least three foot away are being ignored.