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Monday, December 3, 2012

Tips for Seniors: Safety during the holidays

According to the American College of Emergency Physicians, each year 12,000 Americans are treated in hospital emergency departments for falls, cuts, electrical shocks, and burns due to faulty holiday decorations or accidents while decorating. Christmas trees account for more than 400 residential fires annually. Other items of caution include candles, fireplaces, and lighting displays.
Here are some tips to help make sure your loved one is safe this holiday season:


  • If a senior wants to use candles, make sure they are in stable holders and place them where they cannot be easily knocked down.
  • Check smoke alarms and test them. Good practice is to test them monthly and keep them clean and equipped with fresh batteries at all times.
  • Remember to discuss and practice the home escape plan.
  • Avoid open flames near the Christmas tree. Never use lighted candles on a tree or near other evergreens. Always use non-flammable holders, and place candles where they will not be knocked down.


  • Check the label on the artificial tree, saying "Fire Resistant."
  • If your senior loved one has a live tree, make sure that it is fresh and well watered. A fresh tree is green, needles are hard to pull from branches, and when bent between your fingers, needles do not break. The trunk of a fresh tree is sticky with resin, and when tapped on the ground, the tree should not lose many needles.
  • If you help to set up the tree, place it away from fireplaces, radiators, or portable heaters. Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways.
  • Be sure to keep the stand filled with water, because heated rooms can dry live trees out rapidly.


  • Never use electric lights on a metallic tree. The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights, and a person touching a branch could be electrocuted.
  • Check all tree lights before hanging them on the tree. Make sure all the bulbs work and that there are no frayed wires, broken sockets, or loose connections.
  • Plug all outdoor electric decorations into circuits with ground fault circuit interrupters to avoid potential shocks.
  • Make sure to turn off all the holiday lights when your loved one goes to bed or when you leave the house.


  • Use only non-combustible or flame-resistant materials.
  • Wear gloves to avoid eye and skin irritation while decorating with spun glass "angel hair." Follow container directions carefully to avoid lung irritation while decorating with artificial snow sprays.
  • Remove all wrapping papers, bags, ribbons and bows from the tree and fireplace areas after gifts are opened.

Gift Purchasing and Fraud

  • Use direct deposit. The mail - both incoming and outgoing - can be vulnerable, especially during the holidays when criminal activity is heightened.
  • Do not give any personal information over the phone or Internet to an unfamiliar company or caller.
  • Pay the safest way. Many seniors enjoy the convenience of online holiday shopping. Use a credit card as your payment option.

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