The holidays are meant to be a fun and joyous time for everyone to spend with their families and friends, but sometimes the winter holidays can take a turn and end with injuries or hospitalizations. To keep your family’s risk at a minimum, keep an eye out for these common holiday hazards and make plans to circumvent the risks associated with them.
This is probably one of the most surprising holiday hazards. In fact, a study published in Circulation found that Christmas Day (December 25) has the highest rate of heart attack-related deaths. December 26th has the second-highest rate, while January 1st has the third-highest rate. If you have elderly loved ones, this is important to keep in mind during the holiday season.
It isn’t known why these rates are so high during the last week of the year, but there are some suspects. First, the holidays are stressful. Between decorating, shopping, cooking, and traveling—it all adds up. For a senior citizen, this can be a whirlwind of unusual activity that their body is no longer used to, and it can strain their heart.
Second, the holidays bring with them a lot of excess eating and drinking. It’s best to celebrate with some moderation, even though the temptation to go all-out is high. Christmas only comes once a year, but that’s all the more reason to take it a little easier and just enjoy your time together.
Third, it’s not unusual for a lapse in medications and healthcare. Medications often get missed by accident due to the excess activity and other worries going on during the holiday season. Miss a few too many, and there can be problems. It’s also common for people to avoid going to see their doctor during the holiday season or putting off getting something looked at. Again, this is believed to be caused by the excess activity and maybe even a fear that they will be restricted in some way during the holidays. Therefore, they decide to wait until after the celebrations are over.
If you have elderly loved ones, the holiday season is an important time to keep an eye on them and make sure they are continuing to take care of themselves. Help out where you can to ease their burden and make the holiday season a little bit easier for them.
Falls are a common hazard during the holiday season. Whether it’s tripping over light cords and toys, or falling off of a ladder while hanging up holiday lights and decorations around the house, falls are a major hazard for everyone. When someone is using a ladder, make sure they have someone holding it to keep it from sliding, tipping, or falling. It is best to keep elderly relatives off of the ladder and offer to hang lights for them if possible.
Inside the house, make sure cords are out of the way and toys are picked up. You might even need to put a hyper pet into a quiet room—tripping over a pet is very common during the holiday season as excited dogs and cats get underfoot looking for attention or food.
Mistakes happen, and they can lead to food poisoning. At holiday gatherings, it’s common for food to sit out for a while so everyone can take their time making themselves as many servings as they’d like. Unfortunately, the longer the food sits out, the more the bacteria multiply. Older adults are at higher risk of contracting food poisoning due to their weakened immune systems—they’re at even higher risk if they have pre-existing conditions or an autoimmune disease. Make sure your food is thoroughly cooked, and store anything perishable in the fridge within two hours.
Another surprising holiday hazard is medication. If you have an older relative staying with you during the holiday season, medication is something you will need to watch for. Older adults often take a lot of medications, and they’re used to living alone. They will unwittingly leave their pills on nightstands or other places where a child can easily reach them. This is obviously very dangerous, so it’s important to stay alert to where those medications are being stored. You can also offer a pre-determined place for them that’s easy for the older relative to access, but out of reach of curious children or pets.
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