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Older people offered first aid advice for burns amidst fuel crisis fears

Janine Evans

Burns experts at Morriston Hospital have produced a first aid video and poster campaign aimed at helping older people avoid becoming unwitting victims of the fuel crisis.

The hospital’s Welsh Centre for Burns and Plastic Surgery has seen a steady rise in the number of older people requiring treatment.

The fear is this may increase further as they look for alternative ways to keep warm as heating bills soar.

Older people are already at a higher risk of an accidental burn injury. But as they feel the cold more, they face greater risk of burn injuries through the use of heaters and the preparation of hot food and drinks to try to keep warm.

Janine Evans displays poster Janine Evans (pictured), an advanced practitioner occupational therapist at the Morriston centre, said: “With the importance for older people keeping warm during the colder months, there is likely to be an increase in the use of heaters and the preparation of hot food and drinks, all of which come with a risk of burn injuries.”

Recognising the importance of older people keeping warm, Janine said it was key that they did so safely.

“Cold weather can have serious health risks for older adults, especially for those with chronic conditions.

“So it’s important for them to take steps to ensure they keep warm during the winter months.

“However, it is also important they are aware of practices that can keep them safe whilst doing this so that they don’t expose themselves to the risk of sustaining a burn injury.”

Janine explained why they were specifically targeting older people with the advice.

“The physiological changes that occur as we age, such as increased frailty, reduced cognition, and a decline in vision and perception, mean older adults are at a higher risk of an accidental burn injury.

“They are also more likely to sustain a more serious burn as skin becomes 15 times thinner as we age, and they are less likely to survive a major burn due to the multiple co-morbidities they are likely to present with.”

In an attempt to limit injuries, the centre has produced a first aid video, alongside safety posters and leaflets targeting the older generation.

They highlight the three recommended steps in the initial management of a burn injury; cool the burn under cold running water for at least 20 minutes, call NHS 111 for minor burns or 999 if more serious for advice and cover with cling film or a clean plastic bag.

Explaining the inspiration for the safety campaign Janine said: “I’ve been working at the burns centre for 20 years, and as with all areas of the NHS I’ve noticed an increase in the number of older adults coming through our service.

“I noticed these injuries were being sustained at home during activities of daily living. Our role as occupational therapists is to promote safety in daily tasks within the home environment.

“Over the past couple of years I have taken a few students on placement and they have helped me design and develop these different resources to make them suitable for sharing with older adults within the community.

“We are currently looking at how and where they can be distributed – we are hoping to share them on our health board social media channels as well working with our partner agencies to see if they will share on their websites and social media.”

Robert Workman, Deputy Head of Occupational Therapy, praised his staff and placement occupational therapy students for their work on the new campaign.

He said: “This is a fantastic illustration of what can be achieved through creative partnership working.

“Specialist occupational therapists working with occupational therapy students from Cardiff University have enabled us to produce these useful and informative videos.

“They are available in both English and Welsh, and provide advice on how older people can administer first aid after a burn injury.

“The videos aim to increase the visibility of the older population in these health promotion schemes as they can often be overlooked.

“Our hope is that the videos are shared far and wide to educate our community and keep people safe.”

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