Q: One of the ladies who lives on my floor in our elder housing is the resident “know-it-all.” She actually is fun to be around and has a good heart but she can drive us crazy with some of her obscure facts. Yesterday she told us we should no longer take hot baths or showers. Is there any truth to this?
A: Actually, to some extent, yes. As a person ages their skin becomes thinner and oil glands are less productive. This makes elders more prone to dry skin which can result in itching, rashes and even increases the chance of infections. Taking hot showers or baths is an additional factor in drying out the skin.
Temperature sensation is often affected with people who have diabetes. They may not even be aware their skin is being scalded by the hot water while bathing. Other medical conditions also put people at risk if the water is too hot. Heat causes the blood vessels in the skin to dilate. Blood pressure may drop, the heart may try to compensate by pumping harder and faster which could result in feeling lightheaded or in extreme cases even fainting. A person’s sense of balance may also be impacted putting them at risk of falling. This is a simplistic explanation of the body’s response to overly hot water, hopefully it gives you a sense of what happens.
This may not be what you really wanted to learn. So many of us have looked forward to taking a hot bath and relaxing after a stressful or physically active day. A clue to remember, if your skin appears red after bathing, the water is too hot. Generally it is suggested to set your hot water heater between 110 and 120 degrees. Serious injuries and deaths occur every year due to exposure to hot water.
Are you struggling caring for an older adult or having difficulty locating resources? Our staff is available for a no-cost consultation, set up at your convenience, to help guide you through your caregiving experience. For more details or to schedule an appointment, please call 800-892-0890.
Do you have a question? We encourage inquiries and comments from our readers. Please direct your correspondence to firstname.lastname@example.org or Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley, Inc., Age Information Department, 280 Merrimack Street, Suite 400, Lawrence, MA 01843. Joan Hatem-Roy is the CEO of Elder Services.