Keep Seniors Family, Friends, Loved ones, Pets, Home and Automobile Safe during the Holidays

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by: Tehila Mörtl


Season’s Greetings, Happy Channukah, Good Kwanzaa, Merry Christmas and may whichever holiday you and your loved ones are celebrating be filled with warmth, happiness, good company, yummy eats and joyous memories!  Family, friends and loved ones are the most precious parts of life and we at Advise & Protect Senior Care Consultants want to help make certain your holidays are filled with beautiful memories keeping all those you love safe.   

In the interest of holiday safety, please join us as we share some important statistics and tips on how to keep your family, pets, friends, loved ones and home safe this festive season. 

Some important facts to keep in mind…

  • The U.S. has been shown to have the highest fire related death rate in comparison to other industrialized countries.  In fact, statistics show that seniors over 65 make up 30% of death from home fires.
  • Elders over 85 are four times the national average more likely to suffer death by fire.
  • According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), one-fifth of the fires caused by home décor occur during the month of December.
  • The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) reports that cooking is the leading cause of fire during the holidays.  Please never leave a burning stove unattended and keep the area free of all oven mitts, towels, etc.
  • Almost 47,000 fires happen during winter holidays.
  • Two out of five home décor fires are caused by candles.
  • More than 2,200 injuries occur and In excess of 500 lives are lost due to holiday fires.
  • According to the Building and Fire Research Laboratory a dry tree can engulf a room in flames in less than 30 seconds.
  • One in 31 Christmas tree fires results in death.
  • NFPA further reports that 30% of home fires and 38% of home fire related deaths occur between December and February.
  • One in three Christmas tree fires are a result of electrical problems.
  • Space heaters, fire places and other heat sources are responsible for approximately one in four Christmas tree fires.
  • With all the holiday and scented candles, 56% of home candle fires are caused by candles being placed close to flammable materials (i.e. curtains, holiday cards).
  • There are more candle fires in December than any other month.
  • Of the 365 days in the year, the three most common for candle fires are Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and New Year’s.
  • One out of six décor fires began in the family room, living room or den; while, one out of five originated in the kitchen.
  • NFPA also reports an average of 40 homes catch fire every day during the holidays as a result of child play.
  • The American Red Cross revealed that the number of fires they have responded to has increased 10% since 2000.
  • Properly functioning smoke alarms reduce death by home fire by almost 50%.
  • Electric dispersal or lights contributed to 38% of in home Christmas tree fires.
  • Thousands of individuals are treated in hospital emergency rooms every year during the holidays as a result of electrical shock (i.e. lights, extension cords, decorations), falls (i.e. ladders, roof), burns (i.e. candles, cooking), etc.
  • The USFA reports that open-flame fires double on Christmas and New Year’s.
  • Further, loss of property is 34% higher during the holidays with a 70% increased fatality rate per one thousand fires.
  • NFPA reported that in 2013, the three days in which most home fires occurred were Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve and Christmas day.

Tips for providing senior help and keeping your loved ones and home safe during the holidays…

  • Seniors at home often have difficulty checking smoke alarms so you can help keep your elder safe by replacing their smoke alarm batteries at least once each year.
  • Fresh trees look and smell lovely.  To ensure yours is safe, make certain that the needles are fresh, green and not easily broken.  When the limbs can be pulled off easily, the needles break instead of bend or are falling off, the tree is not fresh nor safe for your home.
  • When helping your elder set up their holiday tree allow at least three feet from a fireplace, radiator, heat vents, space heater and candles.  Remember, heat tends to dry trees so water more frequently/check to ensure water container is at least three-quarters full.
  • Always use a sturdy tree stand with watering dish that will not tip over.
  • Be careful of tree placementDo not allow tree to block doorways or emergency exits or interfere with senior mobility for those using walkers, canes or wheelchairs.
  • Keep fresh trees as saturated as possible by watering regularly!  Keep watering dish under the tree three-quarters full of water.
  • Those opting for an artificial tree, please use only ones that are labeled “flame retardant” or “fire resistant”.  If your elder has had an artificial tree for many years, it would be wise to check to make sure it is safe or replace with a new tree.
  • Never hang lights on metallic, artificial trees.
  • Only use holiday lights which comply with safety standards, are tested by a known testing laboratory and are UL or ELT labeled.  If your elder’s lights are from years gone by, pick up a new set for them when you buy your own.
  • When stringing lights on your tree, follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • Never use frayed, bare wired or worn lights or electrical cords on or around trees. Check the plug too for any cracks and replace worn out lights and cords.  Seniors typically have lights they have used for years if not decades.  One easy way to help your elder check their lights is to arrange a time to sit and reminisce over a cup of coffee, tea or cocoa while you check their lights and extension cords.
  • Always unplug lights, blow out candles and ensure cigarettes and cigars are extinguished before naps, bedtime and prior to leaving home.
  • When disposing of cigarettes, cigars, etc. the safest bet is to dampen to ensure they are extinguished before throwing in trash.
  • Keep small children and pets away from your holiday tree.
  • Never leave a burning candle unattended.
  • When installing lights outside, use only those designated for home exterior.
  • Use only appropriately designated lights for indoors for home and tree.
  • When trimming your tree, use only non-combustible or flame-resistant decorations.
  • One great gift idea is to give your elder are timers to use with their home and tree holiday lights.  You might even want to set it for them so lights will turn off before their normal bedtime.
  • Never use decorations on tree or in the home that contain lead as this is hazardous if ingested by children or pets.
  • Keep holiday plants such as Poinsettias out of the reach of children and pets.  These and many others are toxic or poisonous.
  • Limit each extension cord to a maximum of three devices.
  • Further in regards to extension cords, beware of counterfeit electrical products.  To power outdoor lights, use only grounded extension cords with UL rating and plug into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
  • Use only insulated staples or plastic hooks to hang lights.  Metal staples, tacks, etc. can cause electric shock or worse.
  • Keep all lighters and matches out of reach of little hands or elders with dementia.
  • Color flames are lovely but use caution with fire salts as these contain heavy metals which can result in gastrointestinal distress and vomiting if swallowed.
  • If using a fireplace, always keep a fireplace screen up to protect from spread of sparks, embers, etc.
  • Wrapping paper can cause flash fires so do not burn in fireplace.  Want to cut down on the mess?  Try wrapping smaller items in decorative dish towels.
  • If you have guests who smoke, provide them with deep ash trays or ask them to smoke outside and never in the bedroom.
  • Seniors with fireplaces need to remember to have the chimney walls cleaned of all flammable creosote created by hardened soot.  Making the arrangements for your elder would be a thoughtful gift.
  • Before winter arrives, check with your senior to ensure their fireplace flue open before they need to use the fireplace.
  • Dispose of holiday tree limbs and needles in the trash and never put them in a fireplace.
  • Ensure that fire extinguishers are readily available in the kitchen and living areas, particularly those with fire places, space heaters, etc.  If you have guests, advise them where the extinguishers are stored.
  • Never hang stockings on a fireplace that is lit.
  • Always keep candlewicks trimmed to one-quarter inch.
  • Extinguish any votive and candle in a container before the last half inch of wax begins to melt.
  • Safeguard all medication, cleaning products and other toxic agents when children or a senior with dementia are visiting.  You might want to consider installing child safety brackets or locks on drawers and cabinet doors.
  • Don’t forget all those wall sockets!  Install safety plugs prior to children visiting and block outlets with plugs in them.
  • Never deep fry a turkey indoors.  Rather set your deep fryer outdoors, away from your home, on a flat surface and out of the way of children and pets.
  • Please do not leave holiday trees up after New Year.  Provide your senior help by arranging for community pick-up service or take their tree to a recycling center.
  • Develop an escape plan for seniors and help your elder practice.  Get the grandchildren involved to make it more fun!  

To protect your home and automobile when you are away for the holidays…

  • ·       If you know a senior who is planning to travel by car, remind then to check all fluid levels, air pressure in the tires, etc. before leaving.
  • ·       One nice gift for senior travel would be to make up an emergency road kit with bottled water in a small cooler, snacks, thermal blanket, flashlight, etc.
  • ·       Put a couple of indoor lights on timers.
  • ·       Leave a radio on.
  • ·       Unplug all holiday lights and other lighted decorations.
  • ·       Check to ensure candles, fire in fireplace, cigarettes, etc. are extinguished.
  • ·       Check all doors and windows to ensure they are locked securely.
  • ·       Request a stop delivery through the post office or have a neighbor pick up your mail.
  • ·       Place a stop delivery on newspaper or arrange for a neighbor to collect your paper.
  • ·       Never hide spare keys as burglars know to look under the doormat, flower pot, etc.
  • ·       Do not leave wrapped gifts displayed in window.
  • ·       Ensure that your automobile is locked.
  • ·       Those living in colder climates might wish to leave water dripping from taps to prevent pipes from freezing or turn the water off and drain all the pipes.
  • ·       Give a trusted neighbor your emergency contact information and a copy of your travel itinerary.
  • ·       Many do not realize that in small towns in particular, one can ask that the local police drive by your home on occasion.
  • ·       For seniors home alone during the holidays, arrange for a couple of friends and neighbors to stop in for a visit.  The holidays are a difficult time of year for many individuals, especially those who have lost their spouse or a loved one.  Showing your elder that there are those who care for them goes a long way in senior suicide prevention.

All of us at Advise & Protect wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday season filled with many joyous memories! 

Do you have a special holiday memory to share or know of a senior who has helped make the season that much brighter?  If so, please feel welcome and encouraged to contact us directly with your special story.

If you are in need of help with senior moving, downsizing, elder care, money management, elder law, estate management, medical equipment, home care, elder real estate sales or management, planning after life services, etc. please do not hesitate to call Advise & Protect Senior Care Consultants at 646-820-9202 so that we may aid in meeting your needs!


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