Bath Water Temperature Safety for the Elderly

Often, when you think of dangers that lurk in homes for seniors, you do not think about bath water temperatures. However, too hot or too cold bath water temperatures can really pose a serious risk for the health of your elderly loved ones. If your elderly loved one has impaired senses or is slow to initiate movement, then finding the ideal bath water temperature for them is crucial to keeping them healthy and happy. If the water is too hot or cold, they may not realize, or they may not be able to get out of the bathtub quick enough. Scalding water can cause burns, while too cold water can cause drops in blood pressure and issues with blood circulation. If your loved one has health issues that impair their senses or movement, then follow these simple bath water temperature safety for the elderly.

Ideal Bath Water Temperature

Everyone has different preferences when it comes to their bathwater. Some people love really hot, steamy baths, while others prefer tepid, cooler baths. Personal preference plays into what the ideal bath temperature is for your elderly loved one, so to find the perfect bath temperature, first ask your senior how they like their baths. As a rule of thumb, bath temperature should be only a few degrees higher than normal body temperature. However, many people do not believe that water at this temperature is hot enough. It is important to remember though, that any temperature above 102 degrees Fahrenheit (39 degrees Celsius), can affect a person’s health if they stay in the bathtub for too long.

Temperature is a perceived feeling, in which the environment plays a huge role. This means that if the bathroom is too cold, then the water will always seem cold to the person in the bathtub. If the bathroom is kept warm, then cooler baths can seem warmer than they really are. To find the ideal bath water temperature for your senior, it is important to first adjust the temperature in the bathroom itself. Ensure that the temperature in the bathroom is comfortable, and it is not too cold. If there is not a huge difference between the air temperature in the bathroom and the water temperature in the bath, then your senior will feel comfortable and happy. Plus, they will not be at risk for developing any ill health effects from their bath temperature.

Dangers of Water Temperatures

While the ideal water temperature for bath water is just a little higher than normal body temperature, many people still wish to make their bath water a lot hotter or a lot cooler. It is essential for seniors with health issues to stick with a safe bath water temperature though in order to keep their health issues stagnant and not exacerbate them, or add to them. Here are a few health issues that can occur at different water temperatures:

Scalding Water

Water that is so hot that it can burn you can be termed as scalding water. The scalding water is the water that comes out of the bathtub faucet when you first turn the faucet all the way too hot. This water is generally around 120 degrees Fahrenheit (50 degrees Celsius) and is way too hot for safe bathing. Water that is scolding can cause serious burns in very little time. If burned, then elderly people are at a high risk for developing bacterial infections in their burns. Burns can also cause a loss of mobility, and can cause dehydration and scarring.

Hot Bath Water

Hot bath water can also be very dangerous for the elderly. If your elderly loved one does have a health issue that impairs their senses, mobility, or reaction time, then hot water can be very bad for their health. If the water in their bath gets too hot too quickly, then they may not be able to adjust to the temperature, and they will not realize how hot it is before their health could be affected. Hot water can cause blood vessels near the surface of the skin to dilate, which causes a rush of blood to infiltrate the upper layers of the skin. Overtime, if your elderly loved one lays in the bathtub for extended periods of time, then their bodies will try to compensate for this excessive blood. Over compensation can lead to cardiac strain, which can lead to heart problems.

Cold Bath Water

Cold bath water is just as dangerous as hot bath water for the elderly. Cold water can cause the blood vessels near the surface of the skin to constrict, which is the opposite of what happens in hot water. This will reduce the amount of blood that flows to a person’s skin, internal organs and their heart. This reduction in blood volume can also cause cardiac strain and heart issues. Cold water can also cause hypothermia in the elderly. Even water that is just a few degrees lower than a person’s normal body temperature can cause hypothermia and blood vessel constriction.

Bathwater may not seem like a danger zone for your elderly loved one, but it really can pose a dangerous problem. If your elderly loved ones enjoy taking baths due to falling risks in the shower, or due to personal preference; then it is vital that you speak with them about bath water temperature. You can also adjust their hot water tank to ensure that they will not be able to take scalding and very hot baths. Another great idea to help your elderly loved one with their baths is to buy a bath thermometer that is safe for using in the water. Keep the thermometer in the bathroom so that they can test their bathwater each night before they get into the bathtub. Any temperature that is just a few degrees above normal body temperature is safe for them to use. Overall, bath time should not be a stressful time. Simply speak with your elderly loved ones about the dangers of too hot or too cold bath water temperatures, and ensure that they understand how to draw their baths and check for temperature changes.

For more information on bathing and personal hygiene for the elderly, check the following articles in our home care blog: