Dear Donna,

I have a great-aunt who really loves to decorate her house during the holidays. Before having everyone over on Christmas Eve, she spends hours decorating. Lately, I’ve heard that seniors are more likely to experience holiday house fires than other age groups, much of which seems to be caused by decorations.

My aunt really goes all out! I don’t want to spoil her fun or seem condescending, but I do want to keep her safe.

What can we do for her in terms of fire prevention without dampening her spirits?

Kind regards,

Chris in Saginaw

Holiday Fire Safety for Seniors in Michigan

Dear Chris,

Thanks for asking such a great question! Unfortunately, you’re right about older adults and their risk of house fires during the holidays. According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International, the rate of house fires goes up dramatically during major holidays. And people older than 65 are twice as likely to be the victim of a home fire during the holiday season as younger adults.

This doesn’t mean that your great-aunt can’t enjoy herself during the holidays. But it is important that she and the rest of your family understand the things that put her at risk so you can take the necessary precautions.

Let’s have a look at what those risks are and what you can do to reduce them.

Fire Risk Factors for Seniors during the Holidays

The sources of holiday home fires often include:

  • Burning candles
  • Damaged or defective holiday lights
  • Live Christmas trees that dry out
  • Electrical outlets and extension cords

The best way to broach this subject with your great-aunt is probably to share this information with her. Express your desire to help her have a joyous—but safe— holiday season. Then, offer to provide assistance in helping her reduce these risks so she can focus on staying merry.

Here are some ways to address the risk areas I mentioned above:

  • Invest in electrical candles that mimic natural flames
  • Only use high-quality indoor lights and make sure to inspect each bulb carefully for cracks or other damage
  • Purchase an artificial tree Christmas tree made of flame-retardant materials instead of a live one
  • Don’t overload electrical outlets with splitters, extension cords, or adapters
  • Design a detailed escape plan in case of a fire —one that takes any mobility problems into account

Thanks so much for the question, Chris. I hope this information is helpful and that you and your family have a safe and happy holiday season.

Sincerely,

Donna

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