Seniors, Fire Safety, and the Holidays: What Families Should Know
Safety is always a top priority for the caregiver of a senior loved one. But during the holiday season, one specific risk becomes even more important to consider: fires.
Seniors face twice the risk of being seriously injured or losing their life in a fire. Those over the age of 85 have almost five times higher risk. While older adults account for only 13 percent of the nation’s population, they account for 35 percent of the deaths caused by fires.
Here are a few tips to review and share with your older loved ones to help keep them safe this holiday season.
7 Fire Safety Tips for Seniors during the Holidays
- Limit the use of extension cords: Many of us rely on extension cords when decorating for the holidays. This can cause an outlet or cord to overheat, especially in older homes. Remind the older adult you love of the risks associated with using too many extension cords.
- Keep Christmas trees hydrated: The look and smell of a freshly-cut Christmas tree adds beauty to the season. But trees can dry out and create a fire hazard. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) says Christmas tree fires are especially dangerous: one in 34 people involved in a fire caused by a Christmas tree loses their life. That compares with one in 142 for all other home fires. To stay safe, replenish the water in the tree stand frequently. If the tree dries out, remove it from the home.
- Don’t leave candles burning unattended: The holidays are a time of year when more people burn candles. While they add sparkle to the season, leaving a lit menorah or other seasonal candle unattended can be dangerous. Make sure to extinguish all candles before leaving a room or going to bed.
- Exercise caution with space heaters: Seniors on a fixed income often use space heaters in the rooms where they spend the most time: bedrooms, living rooms, and bathrooms. But space heaters used improperly can cause curtains, rugs, furniture, and more to ignite. Make sure to review the directions on any space heater you or a senior loved one uses, and replace space heaters that are over 10 years old.
- Kitchen safety: Home fires are more likely to begin in the kitchen than in any other room of the house. Often, they occur when a senior is cooking, or when they leave a pot unattended on the stove. Since cooking and baking is more prevalent during the holidays, it’s a good time to review kitchen safety. Remember to stay in the kitchen when you are cooking or baking, and encourage your senior loved one to do the same. If you must leave the room, set the timer on the stove. Also, avoid wearing shirts or blouses with loose-fitting sleeves. These can brush against a burner and ignite. Finally, make sure to keep an easy-to-use fire extinguisher in the kitchen.
- Check the smoke detectors: The holidays are a good time to test your loved one’s smoke detectors. Remember, there should be at least one smoke detector on every floor of the home. If the older loved one in your life has hearing loss, there are smoke detectors that emit a low, easier-to-hear alert. Others flash a strobe light or vibrate to warn the senior of danger.
- Create and practice an escape plan: It’s vital for all of us to have an escape plan in case of fire and to practice it a few times a year. For seniors, it is especially important. Work with your older loved one to create an escape plan for every room in their house.
What Type of Senior Care Does a Loved One Need?
We understand that you often return home to spend time with older parents during the holiday season. And many times the topic of senior living options comes up. If you suspect it’s time for a change, we can help you determine what level of care might be the best fit.
The Sunrise Care Questionnaire takes just four minutes to complete. The results will help you figure out where to start your search for senior living.