Easy-to-Follow Holiday Safety Tips for Seniors


Seniors have a lot to contend with when the holidays roll around. Not only do depression and suicide rates rise during the holidays, but there are all sorts of practical dangers, from house fires caused by Christmas trees to falls on snow and ice.

If you have a senior in your care, or if you’re a senior yourself, you’ll want to be especially mindful of these five situations to stay safe this holiday season.

Beware of Icy Steps and Walkways
We talked extensively about this important safety tip in a recent blog post. Seniors are at an increased risk of falls when temps drop below freezing, but keeping the steps and walkway free of snow and ice can go a long way toward preventing a fall.

Avoid Snow Shoveling Dangers
For healthy, active seniors, snow shoveling can be a good way to get in your daily exercise. But because of the increased risk of a heart attack while shoveling, seniors with a history of heart disease or who are at risk of heart disease should not shovel under any circumstances.

If you want to shovel or perhaps just help a younger loved one with the shoveling task, bundle up your entire body and face, leaving no exposed skin, in order to prevent frostbite. Take frequent breaks and stay hydrated. Remember to warm up beforehand with stretching, just as you would for any exercise.

Know the signs of a heart attack and if you begin to feel tightening in your chest, trouble breathing or extreme fatigue, call your doctor immediately.

Follow Christmas Tree and Holiday Decorating Safety
Between 2007 to 2011, U.S. fire departments handled 230 home fires caused by Christmas trees, and another 150 fires related to holiday lights and other decorations involving line voltage, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Although Christmas tree fires aren’t common, they are some of the most damaging and deadly home fires, resulting in $18.3 million in property damage annually and a higher percentage of injuries and deaths than other home fires.

To prevent fires, make sure a real tree is kept watered and that needles do not dry out. Remove a dying tree immediately, even if that means taking it down just a few days after Christmas. Most Christmas tree fires occur after the holiday.

Additionally, use only indoor lights on your tree. LEDs burn cooler than conventional lights, reducing the risk of fire. Do not use lights with frayed or damaged cords.

Finally, make sure your smoke detector is working and has fresh batteries.

Understand Heating System Safety
Have your oil burner and furnace checked by a professional before you fire it up for the winter. If you rely on space heaters for supplemental heating during the colder months, make sure to keep these heaters away from upholstery. Look for a model that is UL-listed to meet safety requirements in the U.S. To avoid overheating or a blown circuit breaker, do not share the space heater’s electrical outlet with other appliances. Electric heaters are safer than fuel-based space heaters, and can significantly reduce your heating bills in the coldest months.

Is a Senior Living Community the Answer?
A move to a senior living community or CCRC (Continuing Care Retirement Community) can help address a lot of these winter dangers. Outdoor maintenance and shoveling won’t be a concern, and you’ll have the security of knowing your heating system is up to date and in good repair. You’ll have the peace of mind of knowing that help is just a quick call away if you should happen to fall while decorating your home. Finally, senior communities offer plenty of activities to stave off boredom and help you capture the holiday spirit all season long. There’s no reason to be alone in a house that’s too big for you, now, or at any time of the year. A move to a senior living community can reduce stress and provide a safer lifestyle for many seniors.

SeniorLiving.Net is a free service for families to use that are looking for senior care or senior living for a loved one. Call (866) 662-0435 to speak to your local Care Advisor about senior care providers in your local area.