Take Care to Avoid These Holiday Accidents

Here are a few common accidents that happen around the holidays and expert-backed strategies that may help prevent them:

Falling while decorating

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in 2019 more than 14,000 people were treated in the ER for a decorating-related injury during the holidays. If you plan to stand on a ladder to hang Christmas lights or place an ornament atop the tree, take safety precautions. For example, you can “[u]se the buddy system,” says Mike Peck, vice president of installation at Leaf Home Safety Solutions, a company that outfits homes with accessible solutions. “If you can't find someone to stabilize the bottom of your ladder, let someone know that you will be using a ladder to decorate your home,” he says. He suggests using a sturdy ladder with a strong shelf for a bucket to hold spare tools and decorations. And most importantly, he adds, “always move the ladder closer instead of reaching farther.”

Tripping over decorations

“Seniors become used to their paths to the restroom, through the home, etc. and having seasonal decorations that change these paths can cause falls or other unsafe occurrences,” says David Chandler, a registered nurse and senior director of strategic programs for Senior Helpers, a national provider of in-home senior care. So having a Christmas tree in a pathway where you typically walk may cause a tumble. Take inventory of your space before decorating and plan to put decorations where they won’t be in the way of common paths through the house.

Burning candles without precautions

“Though candles can certainly brighten up holiday festivities, there is a risk of starting a house fire from using real candles,” Chandler says. He recommends that everyone, at any age, use flameless LED candles, which give off a similar flicker and are much safer. If you insist on real candles, “choosing one in which the wick/flame is contained within a jar so the wax cannot burn you is much safer,” he says. Keep jar candles away from the edge of anything. “Seniors should also avoid stick candles that are more likely to fall over,” Chandler says.

Traveling without medications

Heading over to a relative or friend’s house for the holidays? Make sure to pack your medications. You’ll also want to check your supplies to make sure that you have enough to last you the duration of the trip and if not, call your local pharmacy to have your medication refilled. “Not managing their medical condition is the number one reason for seniors experiencing hospitalizations and not having their medications while traveling can easily result in a trip to the hospital,” says Chandler. “Avoid this by double-checking to make sure you have all your medications prior to traveling.”

Slipping on ice or snow

“One of the most common concerns for seniors during the holidays is falling, whether that be inside or outside,” says Peck. “The presence of ice and snow increases that concern.” Take your time when walking from your home to the outdoors, grabbing onto handrails whenever you can. If a path isn’t paved, don’t try to forge through it; ask for help from a neighbor, an associate at your community, or a family member to have it salted and shoveled. If you are walking in snow, make sure to wear footwear made to help navigate wintery conditions, like boots with special grippers on the bottom.

Using appliances in a hurry

“Since cooking and preparing food is a big part of the holiday season, it is important that seniors be cautious of all of the appliances in the kitchen,” says Chandler. Set a time when using the oven, for instance. Get in the habit of turning the oven off right when you take out the food to help you to avoid forgetting and causing a potential fire. And avoid keeping decorations in the kitchen near the stove.

“Seniors should also avoid putting anything out of reach that takes away center of gravity,” adds Chandler. For example, it is best if all cooking utensils and supplies are able to be reached with feet flat on the floor. If you have to lean on the counter, do so by standing on your toes, or otherwise offset your weight to reach something, as this is when falls are generally more likely to occur.

Christmas tree fires

Between 2015 to 2019, U.S. fire departments responded to an average of 160 fires per year in homes started by Christmas trees. When using indoor electric lights, it may be helpful to use a timer or alarm to remind yourself to shut everything off before you go to sleep. Buy decorations that are flame resistant, even if they cost a little more, recommends Chandler. Keep Christmas trees a safe distance away from fireplaces, heaters and candles. If you’re using a real Christmas tree, make sure to keep it watered so that it remains moist. And don’t leave tree lights plugged in when you are not around. Once your tree turns brown and the needles dry, it will be more likely to burn — so don’t keep it up and lit beyond the holiday season.

The above content is shared for educational and informational purposes only. References to specific products above do not constitute an express or implied endorsement or recommendation by Brookdale with respect to such products. You must consult your doctor before beginning any exercise or fitness program, taking any additional or discontinuing any existing medications, or acting on any content on this website, especially if you have a medical condition. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on our site.

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