Nearly half of Americans – 48% – are planning to keep their holiday decorations up longer in 2021, according to a consumer survey from American Express.
That means there are more opportunities to flood the Internet with videos, memes and movie clips showing holiday decorating mishaps, like people falling off ladders, tripping on gifts and tumbling into Christmas trees.
Although it’s easy to get into the holiday spirit while decorating, it’s also easy to get injured. In fact, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) notes there are about 200 decorating-related injuries each day during the holiday season. Thousands of people seek treatment at the emergency room each year after decorating mishaps.
Half of all decorating-related injuries are falls, according to the CPSC. People fall from ladders while stringing lights, stretching to perfectly place ornaments onto the tree and retrieving heavy boxes of decorations from storage.
Seniors already face a high risk for falling – one in four seniors suffer a fall each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Holiday decorations pose additional safety concerns as homes transform into winter wonderlands at year’s end.
To minimize fall risks for yourself, and seniors, this holiday season, consider these eight decorating tips:
• Exterior lights: Stringing lights onto the roofline or around trees can be dangerous. Instead, utilize inflatables, net lights on shrubs or laser projectors to light up your home’s exterior.
• Ladder safety tips: Ladders are meant for reaching vertically, not horizontally. Stretching to hang ornaments or lights is how you can get hurt. If you need to use a ladder, always face the ladder when ascending and descending, ensuring you have at least one hand to grasp the ladder. Never use the top of the ladder as a step and be sure to use a ladder with a wide base at the bottom for support. If the object you want to reach is too heavy or too far, ask a friend to help.
• Extension cords and light strands: The Christmas tree, music boxes and other holiday decorations requiring electricity should be placed near outlets. Cords create trip hazards and are especially dangerous for curious children and pets.
• Gifts: It’s a blessing to have a bounty of gifts beneath the Christmas tree, but presents and gift bags can pose trip hazards. Be sure to place gifts under the tree and out of walking paths.
• Lighting: Sipping a cup of hot cocoa in a room lit only by candles and colorful lights is nostalgic, but falls often occur in poorly lit environments. Enjoy the sights and sounds of the holiday season with the lights on.
• Holiday storage box safety tips: Holiday decorations are usually stored in a special spot. When lifting, get as close to the box as possible and try keeping your elbows and arms close to your body. Keep your back straight during the lift by tightening your stomach muscles and bending at the knees. The box should be close to your body and centered in front of you. With a good grip, lift with your legs, not your back, and do not twist. Be sure to return the empty boxes to their original spot when items are on display. If the boxes are too heavy, ask a friend to help.
• Holiday parties: Nighttime gatherings in the backyard or patio area aren’t ideal because of low lighting and uneven surfaces. Add extra lighting so guests can navigate the terrain.
• Package deliveries: Mailing gifts to loved ones helps bridge the emotional distance during the holidays, but it’s important to consider the weight of packages you are shipping. Some friends and family might not be able to safely lift heavy packages.
Decorating for the holidays is a family tradition, one that many seniors continue long after their children grow up and move out. Perhaps it’s time to start a new tradition by offering to help parents, grandparents and older neighbors put up their holiday displays. It will help keep them safe and they’ll certainly appreciate the extra set of hands and spirited conversation.
About the Author
Dr. Virginia Reed is a physical therapist and Southwest Florida regional director for FYZICAL Therapy & Balance Centers, which has more than 440 locations in 45 states. For more information, please visit fyzical.com.