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How to Stay Safe During the Holidays

Written by 
Caroline Bodian

Article at a glance

  • Avoid fire hazards during the holidays by keeping trees away from fireplaces or radiators, not using lights with frayed wires, and making sure fireplace fires and candles are put out before you sleep. For more on possible fire hazards, read this section.

  • To prevent older adults from falling during the holidays, you should make sure to remove any loose items or tripping hazards from the floor, keep your pets in a separate room and have proper lighting. For more on preventing falls during the holidays, read this section.

  • Be sure to check the weather forecast before driving to a relative’s home, and if you’re expecting guests, make sure to clear the area in front of your house of any snow or ice. For more on snow safety during the holidays, read this section.

  • The holiday season often brings a change in routine. Stay healthy by keeping hydrated and getting plenty of rest. For more on health tips during the holiday season, read this section.

  • Remember to take COVID-19 safety measures, such as regularly washing your hands and maintaining social distance. For more on COVID-19 safety, read this section.

The holidays are meant to be fun and festive: marked by delicious and hearty meals, good cheer and most of all, family and friends. If there’s any time of year when clans big or small reunite, it’s during the holiday season. While family reunions are cause alone for celebration, it’s important to keep safety and health in mind, especially when it comes to older adults. The same goes for older relatives hosting family members. The holidays can upend routines, and it’s best to prepare for them well in advance. One of the biggest risks for older adults during the holidays is falling. When holiday decorations abound and in new home environments, older adults are more susceptible to falls and fractures. Other possible dangers during this time of year may include hazards with fire, snow, and in recent years, COVID-19. Health safety, such as staying hydrated and getting enough rest, are also important.

Holiday fire safety

Lights are what give the holidays their festive glow — whether wrapped around a tree, stoked in the fireplace or set decoratively around the dining room table. They can, however, cause fire hazards, and should be handled with safety and care. Here are a few things you can do to prevent fires during the holidays.

Try to avoid using a turkey fryer if possible, as the appliance has been responsible for a number of fire-related incidents.

Fall prevention during the holidays

Falls are common among adults 65 and over. In fact, falls are the primary cause of injury in this age group: 1 in 4 older adults will fall each year in the U.S. This is why it’s especially important to keep floors clear and tidy during the holiday time when many hazards can arise. Consider these suggestions for keeping the floorspace safe:

  • Pick up any loose papers or other items on the floor.

  • Get rid of any tripping hazards, such as rugs and loose electrical cords.

  • Move furniture that gets in the way of walking paths throughout the house.

  • Keep pets in another room and away from guests to avoid tripping or falling accidents.

Having the proper lighting can also prevent falls. If an older adult is sleeping over, make sure to place a lamp or light source near the bed in case they need to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. You should also make sure that visibility is clear outside, so guests can see where they’re walking and avoid falls. Older adults may also find it challenging to get on and off a toilet that’s too low, so consider getting a raised toilet seat with a bar to assist them in standing up.

Snow safety during the holidays

Many areas of the country will get some snow during the winter season. While snowmen and snow angels can make holiday time all the more magical, snow can also introduce hazards, especially for older adults who are more vulnerable to falls. If you’re having guests, be sure to clear ice and snow as well as loose leaves before they arrive.

If you’re driving to a relative’s house, make sure to check the weather forecast beforehand and stay off the road if there’s going to be a storm. Even if the snow is light, consider a ride-share option such as Uber, and think about staying at your family member’s house so you don’t have to drive back at night.

Holiday-time health tips

There’s no time like the holidays when food and sweets are plentiful. But this can make it all the more challenging to keep your health in check. Older adults will want to be especially cautious when it comes to maintaining a proper diet, getting enough rest and staying adequately hydrated. Here are some health tips to follow during the holiday season.

  • Make sure you get plenty of rest. Celebrating the holidays with family and friends can be rather exhausting, so you should plan for periods of rest throughout the day.

  • Stick to your usual dietary guidelines and limitations. While the sweets and treats laid out for the holidays can look extra tempting, giving in too much can throw off your diet and make you feel far from your best.

  • Keep hydrated. Don’t wait until you’re feeling thirsty to drink water, and try to avoid alcohol as it can make you more dehydrated.

  • Tune in to your emotions and reach out for help. The holidays can be a difficult time for many, bringing up feelings of loss and grief. Rather than burying these feelings, reach out to friends and family members for support.

Holiday COVID-19 safety

COVID-19 safety precautions are paramount in a world still grappling with a global pandemic. If you’re having guests over, follow these safety measures:

  • Regularly wash your hands and clean commonly touched surfaces.

  • Limit gatherings to a small number of people.

  • Wear a mask when possible and try to stay at least six feet apart from others.

  • If you think hosting or attending an event is too risky, consider alternative options such as a virtual get-together on Zoom.

It also helps if all the guests in attendance are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

Come holiday time, our minds will turn to what gifts to get and which dishes to cook. These are important to plan, but even more essential is figuring out how to make your home as comfortable and safe as possible for all your guests, including those who are more prone to injury. What may be harmless for a younger person — like leaving items strewn about the floor or letting a pet roam freely — can be hazardous for an older adult. While we should focus on the joy and happiness the holiday season brings, we must also ensure that all of our loved ones have a secure and comfortable seat at the table.

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