As Baby Boomers mature, the numbers of assisted living facilities are steadily rising to meet this aging population’s needs. These facilities allow seniors and their families to concentrate on living in the now rather than worrying about the unpredictability of the future.
Ideally, the health and safety of residents is of utmost importance to a facility’s staff and administrative personnel. Laws and regulations for assisted living facilities vary from state to state. For the continued health and safety of assisted living facility residents, regular testing of water temperature is necessary to ensure that temperatures fall within requisite legal parameters.
Why the Need for Water Temperature Testing in Assisted Living Facilities?
While the purity of water needs periodic testing for contaminants, improper water temperature at the tap can cause serious problems for elderly residents in assisted live facilities. Most plumbing fixtures at regulated residential facilities must maintain water temperatures of no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Many states mandate that water temperatures in such facility water heaters be kept between 105 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit. Temperatures higher than 120 degrees increase the risk of scalds, especially to the more sensitive skin of the elderly.
Increased Risk of Scalding in the Elderly
Healthy, undamaged skin can endure about five minutes of exposure to 120-degree Fahrenheit hot water before scalding occurs. However, the skin of young children and the elderly takes far less time for burns to develop. During his tenure as Medical Director at the University of Michigan’s Trauma Burn Center, Dr. Paul Taheri was quoted as saying, “The exposure time for each temperature can be cut in half for children or the elderly because their skin is thinner and more sensitive. Also, they are unable to react as quickly due to their age or physical limitations.”
Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, pose an increased risk for scalding to aged skin because of the disease’s tendency to cause a decreased sensitivity to heat. Diabetic residents may not discern that hot water spraying from a showerhead or filling a tub is too hot until scalding has already occurred. Various medications can also cause desensitization to heat.
Administrators and owners of assisted living facilities or other residential care facilities should initiate regular water temperature testing to minimize the risk of scalding to elderly residents committed to their care.