Dementia: A risk factor for burns in the elderly

Burns. 2016 Mar;42(2):282-90. doi: 10.1016/j.burns.2015.10.023. Epub 2016 Jan 16.


Background: Older people are disproportionately at risk of burn and have a high risk of dementia; however the impact of dementia on risk of burn is unknown.

Method: Linked hospitalisation and death records for individuals aged 65 years and older admitted to a NSW hospital for a burn over the ten year period 2003-2012 were analysed. Demographic and burn characteristics and health outcomes were compared for people with and without dementia. Incidence rates were calculated per 100,000 population and negative binomial regression was used to examine temporal trends.

Results: Of the 1535 older people hospitalised for a burn, 11.0% had a record of dementia. The age-standardised incidence rate for people with dementia was 22.7 per 100,000, and for people without dementia was 14.2 per 100,000 population, an incident rate ratio (IRR) of 1.6 (95%CI 1.3-2.0, p<0.0001). There was no significant change in rates over time. People with dementia were more likely to be admitted with burns to the trunk and have greater than 20% total body surface area (TBSA) burn. Mean length of stay (LOS) was more than double (24 vs 12 days) and 30-day mortality three times higher (15.4% vs 5.1%) for people with dementia. Adjusting for differences in age, sex, TBSA, inhalation injury, comorbidities and complications eliminated the increased mortality but not the difference in LOS. People with dementia were more likely to have been burnt by hot tap water (RR 2.3; 95%CI 1.8-2.8, p<0.0001) and ignition of clothing/nightwear (RR 2.6; 95% CI 1.2-5.4, p=0.0149) and to have sustained the burn in residential aged care (20.0%).

Conclusion: Burns in people with dementia are significant injuries, which have not decreased over the past ten years despite prevention efforts to reduce burns in older people. Targeted prevention education in the home and residential aged care facilities is warranted.

Keywords: Burns; Burns prevention; Death; Dementia; Elderly; Hospitalisations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Surface Area
  • Burns / epidemiology*
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Information Storage and Retrieval
  • Length of Stay / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • New South Wales / epidemiology
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoke Inhalation Injury / epidemiology
  • Trauma Severity Indices