The holiday season is here and, although the holidays will be a little different this year because of COVID-19, many families are still preparing to welcome their elderly family members into their homes for their holiday celebration. Even though the holiday season is supposed to be a time of joy, cheer, and celebration, hosting an elderly loved one in your home, especially one that struggles with mobility, poses a few safety risks that you should not ignore. Moreover, there are small, practical things you can do both inside and outside the home to keep your family safe.

Make Your Bathroom More Accessible

While it may not be ideal to go out of your way to install shower grab bars or invest in major bathroom accessibility equipment, there are several ways you can make your bathroom safer. First, think about where important items are located and how the location of that item will work for your elderly loved one. If your bath towels are located under the sink, consider placing them on a shelf by the shower so your loved one doesn’t have to bend over and reach, running the risk of falling or hurting themselves. If your loved one has mobility issues, make sure all shower-supplies like shampoo, soap, etc, are located in easy-to-reach places. The less bending, reaching, and twisting someone has to do in the bathroom, the less likely they are to fall and injure themselves.

At-Home Fall Prevention for Added Safety

According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the leading cause of non-fatal and fatal injuries among senior citizens in the United States. In fact, a senior citizen is treated in the emergency room every 11 seconds as a result of falling. Even when falls aren’t life-threatening, they can instill a serious fear in people to the extent at which individuals stop participating in certain activities that they once enjoyed to avoid falling. Furthermore, once a person has fallen one time, they are more likely to fall again. Whether your loved one has a history of falling or not, there are simple things you can do for fall prevention in your home.

First, make sure all of the walkways in the home are free from obstructions like loose cords, loose floorboards, toys, or other items that could cause a person to trip or fall. Either secure these items down or remove them from the area. Other precautions you can take for fall prevention include improving the lighting in your home, putting nightlights in the bathrooms and hallways, and placing essential items in easy-to-reach places. If you have wood or tile floors, you can also encourage your elderly loved ones to wear their slippers or shoes while moving around your home.

Choose Small Gatherings Over Large Celebrations

Between community tree lightings, church events, holiday shopping, and other festivities, there are many ways in which communities come together to celebrate the holidays. However, many of these gatherings are going to look different this year. Some events aren’t operating at all while others have strict social distancing guidelines. At the same time, senior citizens are at a higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and developing severe illness than the rest of the population, so these closures aren’t necessarily a bad thing.

If possible, follow the CDC guidelines and avoid large gatherings altogether. This will make your holiday celebration safer for you and your elderly and at-risk loved ones. Instead, celebrate at home, limit physical contact, practice social distancing, and wear your mask.

Prepare for Cold or Inclement Weather Conditions

Depending on where you live, the weather may also be a concern. As the body ages, it becomes more and more sensitive to cold weather. What may not seem cold to you could be too cold for your parents or grandparents. This is why you should prepare their rooms with extra blankets and possibly a small space-heater to be used at night if it gets too cold.

If you’re expecting inclement weather, such as ice or snow, you’ll need to plan for this, as well. Sleet and ice can make outdoor walkways slippery, leading to a higher number of falls. If your driveway or sidewalk has become icey, consider clearing it off and accompanying your elderly loved one to the car so they don’t slip.

Keeping Your Entire Family Safe During The Holidays

Identifying and removing the risks both in and around your home can help keep your elderly loved one safe while visiting you this holiday season. Fortunately, making your home a safer place isn’t expensive or difficult to do! It only takes some thinking and time to make your home safer for everyone involved this holiday season.