Holiday Safety - Issues to Consider for Mom and Dad
Holidays are a joyful time of year meant for get-togethers, memories, and a touch of nostalgia. However, the holiday season can be one of the most dangerous times for seniors.
For example, you may be perfectly capable of navigating the string of Christmas lights sprawled on your living room floor while decorating the Christmas tree, but Mom or Dad may trip over them and experience a severe elderly fall.
A number of holiday safety issues should be considered when Mom or Dad lives alone, or with adult children. Caregivers should look for potential dangers or fall hazards that may prove dangerous to the overall well-being and safety of the elderly. Does this mean you can't use your traditional holiday season decorations in the yard or in the home? Of course not, but it does mean being more aware of holiday safety and how such decorations may affect the ability of your loved one to navigate the home or property without increasing safety risks.
Decorating for the holiday season, whether it's St. Patrick's, Easter, Thanksgiving or Christmas, is a time of joy, family togetherness, and companionship and special events. Extra cooking in the kitchen, decorations throughout the house and festivities and their associated activities and get-togethers offer many seniors the companionship, comfort, and security of family and friends.
However, holiday decorations are also blamed on many elderly falls and senior accidents in and outside the home. Just because you can easily navigate such decorations around the house doesn't mean that Mom or Dad will have an easy time of it
For example, you may not have any trouble getting around a living room decorated with a Christmas tree, several floor arrangements and extra knickknacks on tables, but Mom may experience difficulty navigating her walker around such objects.
Extra electrical cords used to plug in Christmas trees, lights and tabletop decorations may prove to be an elderly fall risk for Dad. What about those decorative floor rugs or furniture throws? Fall hazards can be prevented by taking a careful look at your holiday decor and objectively determining whether they create hazards for the elderly.
Remember that any individual with Parkinson's disease may be unable, or unwilling, to lift their feet from the floor when walking. The shuffling gait associated with Parkinson's disease may very well prove
hazardous if extension cords and electrical cords cross hallways, flooring or near the front door unless they are secured down with duct tape.
Can Mom reach down to plug in the Christmas tree lights without increasing her chance of falling or bumping into other nearby objects? Speaking of electrical cords, are you following adequate safety when using outlets and not plugging too many electrical cords into one receptacle?
Holiday decorations add ambiance to any room, but too much clutter can be overwhelming for an elderly parent diagnosed with dementia. If Mom has Alzheimer's, you may not want to set that bowl of holiday fruit decorations on your coffee table, or she may mistake it for edible food.
When decorating outdoors, make sure that extension cords for outside lighting and yard or lawn decorations are tucked safely against the base of buildings or along the sides of walkways and paths and won't cause a trip or fall hazard for the elderly. In winter conditions, ensure that walkways, patios and driveways are kept clear of snow and ice. In the fall, elderly individuals raking leaves, sweeping and bundling piles of leaves into trash bags experience an alarming number of trips and falls.
Many elderly individuals take special pleasure decorating for the holidays. For many, the holiday season remind seniors of better times, capabilities and friendships.
However, there's a fine balance into encouraging and helping your parent decorate for the holidays and utilizing caution when it comes to those very same decorations that Mom has used for decades.
Cater the home and yard to the physical and cognitive abilities of your parent when it comes to decorating and keep their safety and security uppermost in your mind, and theirs, during any holiday season.