Holiday Safety Guide for Seniors and those with Alzheimer’s

As we haul out our decorations and special furnishings to welcome in the holiday season, it’s easy to overlook safety measures that protect our families and our homes. According to the National Fire Protection Association, nearly 30% of all home fires and 38% of fire-related deaths occur between December and February. Also, the holiday season is associated with an increase in fall-related injuries both in and outside the home. Whether you’re caring for a loved one or are preparing to visit an aging parent, there are simple precautions you can take to decrease the risk of injury this holiday season.

Safety Tips for the Home

Between decorations and visitors, homes can become danger zones during the holidays. Since many people will be staying at home this holiday season, it’s important to ensure the home is the safest place you can be, especially for older adults. Here are a few tips to consider as you take precautionary measures to ensure safety:

Clear the clutter
Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of non-fatal related hospital admissions among seniors. Tripping and fall threats can be great concerns for older adults during the holidays. Make sure to keep floors and hallways clear, tightly secure extension cords to walls, and add non-slip pads underneath rugs. You might also consider using decorations that are secured to walls and do not interfere with walkways.

Safe lighting
We all love holiday lights, but it’s important to ensure all areas of the home are properly lit. Dim lighting can make it difficult to identify new home furnishings you might not be used to seeing. Always use a nightlight in hallways and bedrooms, especially where your loved one will be sleeping.

At home dementia tips
Those with dementia have added safety challenges during the holidays. Here are a few ways to make sure your home is especially adapted for their needs according to AARP:
• Mark edges of steps with neon, glow-in-the-dark tape.
• Repair any cracked pavement and uneven bricks, especially if you’re expecting snow or inclement weather.
• Install safety and grab bars, especially in bathrooms and in hallways.
• Unplug all kitchen appliances like your microwave or toaster oven.

Safety Tips for Decorating

Decorations make the holidays feel special and festive. However, they can also present a lot of safety concerns, especially for those who are living with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia. Stick to these rules when you plan out your decorations:

Avoid twinkling lights
Lights that flash or twinkle are commonplace when it comes to Christmas and holiday decorations. However, these lights can often confuse those with dementia or memory disorders and can be disorienting for older adults in general. Instead, use lights that have a consistent glow.

Use flameless candles
Candles can add a beautiful ambiance to a home during the holidays, but the risk of starting a house fire increases greatly with real candles. Instead, you might consider using flameless candles to add a holiday glow to your home.

Identify choking hazards
Food plays a large role in celebrating the holidays. Be aware of choking hazards such as hard candies and other foods that are often used as décor in gingerbread houses and to decorate Christmas trees. If you’re celebrating with someone living with Alzheimer’s it’s important to avoid these foods or to closely monitor the situation.

Safety Tips for Gift Giving

Exchanging gifts plays a big part in holiday celebrations. Gift-giving also allows people to show their loved ones they’re thinking about them, especially when they’re unable to celebrate in person. While gifts are special and exciting, they can also pose safety concerns for those with Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia. If you’re preparing to send a gift to a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, or need to provide gift-giving guidelines to family members, stick to these easy safety tips provided by the Alzheimer’s Association:

Provide suggestions
You might consider providing gift suggestions for your family if they’re interested in purchasing a gift for your loved one living with Alzheimer’s or dementia. Comfortable clothing, an identification bracelet, photo albums, and medical alert pendants are all great options.

Avoid dangerous items
You may need to remind your family to avoid giving dangerous tools, utensils, sharp objects, challenging games, or electronic devices as gifts. These could lead to injuries or moments of frustration and confusion for someone with Alzheimer’s.

Be practical
Everyday items can be helpful for caregivers as well. Gift cards, laundry, maintenance, and housekeeping services make great gifts for people with Alzheimer’s and their support team.

Protecting Your Loved One during the Holidays

If your loved one has been newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or you’re preparing to see them over the holidays, these tips, crafted by AARP, can help you avoid some general safety concerns that come with the holiday season.

Monitor skills and abilities. If it’s been a while since you’ve last seen your loved one, it’s important to reassess their abilities when it comes to balance, coordination, strength, and motor skills. If you notice a change inability, you might consider adding safety features, such as slip resistance rugs or grab bars, where you see fit.
Evaluate safe areas and danger zones. Those living with Alzheimer’s and dementia can often forget what might hurt them and how to use everyday appliances. Consider storing dangerous substances like bleach, cleaning products, sharp knives, and power tools in an area that’s hard to access, like a locked cabinet or shed.
Utilize technology. Wandering devices can be especially helpful during the holiday season. Seat cushions, floor mats, and bed pads that are designed to alert you when your loved one gets up or leaves the room can help reduce the risk of wandering. You might also consider purchasing motion-sensor alarms for the outdoors.
Patrol the home. Make sure to continually assess your home for items that can be tempting and dangerous. In the kitchen, be sure to monitor expired, raw, and moldy food as those with dementia might be tempted to eat those items. Foods that are choking hazards like cherries and coffee beans should also be stored in a safe place. Be sure to keep potentially harmful items out of sight such as firearms and car keys.

Celebrating Safely at Maplewood Senior Living

At our Maplewood Senior Living communities, the safety of our residents will continue to be prioritized as we navigate through this holiday season. If you would like to learn more about the safety measures we’ve put into place or to schedule a tour, please contact us here.

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