Looking out for seniors at holiday gatherings

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Having Senior Citizens at the gatherings makes it so much more special. However, falls and car accidents are more likely to occur because the houses are cluttered with gifts, trinkets, and light strands; it gets dark earlier in the day; and alcohol can impair balance and reaction times. Make sure that Seniors can get to the party safely, pick them up if you need to, and clear a pathway in the house for them to walk that is not cluttered.

Let’s start out with risks on the tree. Toddlers and pets are at risk of breaking glass bulbs and cutting themselves, eating tinsel or ribbons causing bowel obstruction, or biting the wires on the lights and getting a shock. In addition, holiday ornaments from the 1940s through the 1970s have tested positive for asbestos or lead which can be ingested if you lick or suck on them. If you have toddler or pets, you have to place places these items higher up on the tree to prevent exposure. Next is the risk for Toddlers accessing prescription medication while at a family member’s house. Many seniors have their pills in pill boxes or vials without child resistant caps and the pills are brightly colored and interesting to toddlers. The adults are frequently distracted by seeing family and don’t monitor their kids as closely as usual once the party begins. So if you have Toddlers, you have to sweep the area when you arrive and look for things that could be dangerous. Then there is the risk that certain foods can pose to Toddlers and Pets.

Nuts can be a choking hazard for Toddlers and pets, Toddlers may have an allergy to certain nuts like peanuts, and pets can get seizures or heart problems from macadamia nuts, walnuts, or chocolate (with the darker chocolate having greater risk). Holly berries and mistletoe leaves can also be toxic to pets and toddlers causing several symptoms from GI upset to sedation and weakness. It is just safer to move these items to higher ground as well.

Dr, Michael White, UConn School of Pharmacy