December, with all its holiday festivities, is often considered the most magical time of the year. From cooler weather to vibrant lights, the season brings joy for many. However, to ensure a joyful holiday experience, it is important to consider safety first when planning holiday festivities and decorations.
According to UCLA Health, there are about 160 decorating-related injuries each day after the start of the holiday season. Of those accidents, nearly 50% include falls. In addition to falls, fires are known to increase around the holidays, often caused by Christmas lights, candles and cooking. This year, Senior Choice at Home, a comprehensive membership-based, life plan at-home program for healthy and proactive older adults, is offering tips to reduce the risks of holiday-related injuries.
Fall risks and fire hazards
Avoid injury around the holidays by limiting clutter on the floor. Holidays are the prime time for gathering, which means that children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will be around to spend time with their families. If your family celebrates Christmas, clean up wrapping paper and gift bags as presents are opened to prevent potential tripping hazards. After gifts are opened, place them on a nearby elevated surface to keep them off of the floor.
When decorating, make sure to take the proper precautions. Check your strands of string lights prior to hanging them to make sure there are no exposed or frayed wires or sockets. Exposed wires and sockets can lead to fires when strung around a real tree. If your lights show any of these signs, dispose of and replace them. If buying or replacing lights, purchase LED lights, as they last longer, use less electricity and don’t heat up like traditional lights. Also, place decorations within arm’s reach to prevent losing your balance. If you would like to hang decorations out of your own reach, enlist the help of friends or family.
Real vs. Artificial: determine the safer option
Next, consider the type of tree that you’d like this year. Though the appeal of a real Fraser fir is understandable due to its nostalgic smell, it isn’t always the safest option.
For older adults, it may be beneficial to opt for an artificial tree, rather than a live one. A risk of having a real tree is the danger it poses to not only you, but your home as well. A forest-cut Christmas tree can weigh anywhere from 50 to 70 pounds, while an artificial tree weighs closer to 10 to 30 pounds. A fallen tree can be difficult to pick up, leading to strained or pulled muscles. Real trees can also cause damage to your home, such as water damage or scratching your floors. Additionally, many artificial trees are made with fire-resistant materials.
Kitchen and home safety
No matter what you may be cooking or baking this holiday season, it’s important to note proper kitchen safety. When using the oven, make sure to take out anything you’ve stored in there, and check to make sure that it has been turned off once cooking is complete. When cooking, be sure to that there is somebody in the kitchen at all times to keep an eye on the food or any potential fires. Small mistakes can also cause fires, such as leaving an oven mitt or paper towel too close to a stove burner.
Generally, the holidays are a good time to make sure that your home is up to date in terms of safety; test your fire alarms in each room and replace the batteries if necessary. Make sure you have a fire extinguisher, know how to use it and where it is located, and check that you have a first aid kit handy in case of burns or small cuts.
While there are several precautions to take to ensure your physical safety this holiday season, it’s also crucial to consider your mental safety and wellbeing. Loneliness, isolation and holiday fatigue among older adults during this time is relatively common. To avoid this feeling, try something new, such as going to a holiday light show with neighbors or creating new traditions with family members. Initiate opportunities to be involved in family activities by reaching out and proposing ideas for family events or gatherings.