Caregiver Tips for Celebrating Independence Day with Senior Loved Ones

july 4

Independence Day is a fantastic opportunity to spend time with friends and family. Many of us hit the great outdoors, join in a barbecue or picnic, and of course, enjoy a fireworks extravaganza. Though most of us know that the first Independence Day was recognized in 1776, it’s surprising to learn that it wasn’t until 1941 that this glorious event became a federal holiday. says the celebration included fireworks in 1777, starting with a 13-gun blast from a ship to celebrate each of the 13 colonies, while the skies over Philadelphia and Boston lit up with fireworks that night.

Today, we celebrate Independence Day in a wide variety of ways. Most of it involves a great deal of indulgence! Americans eat about 150 million hot dogs on the holiday[1] and it’s the day Americans buy the most beer[2]. According to How Stuff Works, the glorious Macy’s fireworks show on the evening of the 4th of July uses more than 48,000 fireworks at a cost of more than $6 million, and is (probably) the largest show of the approximately 14,000 that happen when the sun goes down.

No doubt it’s usually a wonderful day. But while it can be filled with fun, laughter, and good times with friends and family, it’s important to remember the safety of our elderly loved ones. They want to enjoy the festivities too!

How to Keep Your Senior Loved One Safe and Happy

Independence Day often means being outside, setting off fireworks, breaking bread with those you love, and attending all sorts of events. Those things can be tiring for anyone, and sometimes they can be a bit dangerous if care is not taken to ensure everyone has a good time within their limits. Here are some things to remember about Independence Day safety for senior adults.

Be Careful of the Sun

Independence Day falls on July 4th, during the height of summer. That means the sun is shining (hopefully) and the temperatures are on the rise. As a result, too much sun exposure or even heat-related illnesses are likely. Extreme heat kills more than 600 people every year, according to the CDC, and it’s very easy to fall into a heat-related illness before you realize you’re dehydrated or far too warm. This is especially true for seniors, who might have difficultly regulating their body temperature.

Exposure to the direct rays of the sun also means the potential for sunburn or a higher risk of skin cancer. While WebMD says that up to 15 minutes of exposure can be just right to get plenty of vitamin D from the sun, it’s safe to say we usually enjoy much more than that on Independence Day. Keep older adults protected from direct sunlight by staying in the shade, ensuring they wear a wide-brimmed hat, and applying sunscreen on a regular basis. Keep them well-hydrated with water, Gatorade, or other drinks, especially those that provide electrolytes.

Are you in a place with no shade? Bring a padded chair and an umbrella to help keep the sun away. A handheld fan can help keep things cool too – don’t forget to bring extra batteries!

Be on the lookout for signs of heat exhaustion and other illnesses, and act accordingly the moment you see that your loved one is struggling. Review these tips from the National Institute on Aging for dealing with potential problems in the heat, and if things get concerning, consider getting your senior loved one a medical alert device. This emergency response solution is designed to get help as quickly as possible.

Stay Safe Around Fireworks

Though most of us love to enjoy the fireworks that blast high into the sky, it’s not unusual to see dozens of pop-up stands throughout the country offering the sort of fireworks you can use in your own backyard. Some of these can be rather powerful. Lighting up a fuse and making things go “boom” always has the potential for injury: according to the 2021 Annual Report from the Consumer Product Safety Commission, there were 11,500 injuries treated that year in emergency rooms across the country, and nine confirmed fatalities from incidents involving fireworks. The majority of those happened during the month around Independence Day.

When using backyard fireworks, stay safe with these tips from the National Safety Council:

·         Never use fireworks while you are impaired by drugs or alcohol

·         Anyone near the fireworks should wear appropriate eye protection

·         Never hold a lit firework in your hand

·         Keep an appropriate distance from fireworks (this includes people, houses, and flammable objects)

·         Never use them indoors

·         Never light them up in containers

·         Light up one at a time, and never revisit malfunctioning or “dud” fireworks, as they could ignite in an instant

·         Soak both spent and unused fireworks in water for a few hours before discarding them

Fireworks are best set off at night, and though it might be the middle of the summer, those nights might get a little chilly. Have a sweater, light jacket, or blanket available for your senior loved one to help ensure they don’t get too cold during a late night of watching colors light up the sky.

Remember that fireworks can get quite loud. Bring earplugs for your senior loved one – and bring extras in case others around you need them too.

If they have one, make sure your loved one is wearing their medical alert pendant at all times. An on-the-go Alert1 Medical Alert helps ensure you can venture out into town or anywhere else to find the best fireworks displays, yet still have the protection you need at all times.

Keep Energy Levels in Mind

It’s important to carve out some quiet time for your senior loved ones during the big Independence Day celebrations. Energy levels flag as we get older. Physical activity can obviously tire someone out, but so can mental activity, such as being surrounded by those who want to talk with you for long periods of time. While all that togetherness is a beautiful thing, it can also be very tiring!

To handle the physical aspect, bring along all the things you need to help your loved one relax, such as a wheelchair for those who have issues with mobility or a portable folding chair for those who can get around well but still need a comfortable place to sit. Bring along any mobility devices they might need, such as a cane or walker. Offer water and food on a regular basis.

When it comes to the mentally taxing side of things, look for a time and space where your loved one can simply sit in the quiet or even take a nap. It might be a good idea to consider attending an event in the morning, going home for the afternoon to avoid the heat of the day, and then coming back out around time for the fireworks.

If your loved one has dementia, they might not truly recognize what they are celebrating or why. They might be easily overwhelmed by too much stimulation throughout the day. In addition, they might not recognize when they are feeling too tired, too hot, dehydrated, or otherwise overwhelmed. Your elderly loved one may need some special care and shouldn’t be expected to fully participate in all the festivities.

Ways to Celebrate Inside

What if your senior loved one can’t get out to the barbecue or just doesn’t have the energy to see the fireworks? There are many other things that can bring happiness to seniors on the big day. Consider these ideas:

·         A cookout in your own backyard. This can bring family and friends right to your doorstep, which can be great for emotional well-being as well as delicious food seniors will usually be happy to eat! If elderly family members feel hot or tired, they are just steps away from relief.

·         Watch classic movies about America. Choose movies based on the audience – for instance, watching Patton is probably not the best idea if you have little kids in the house as well.

·         Cook with your loved one. Creating desserts that can then be taken out to family and friends can be a joyful way to get busy, reconnect, and provide something wonderful for your annual barbecue.

·         Watch the fireworks on television. Some of the biggest fireworks displays in the nation are televised! It might mean staying up late, but that can be worth it to see the colors and feel the patriotism that comes from seeing fireworks bursting in air.

·         Play simple board games that keep everyone occupied and laughing.

·         Ask your elderly family members to share stories. What was Independence Day like when they were young? What were some family traditions that might have fallen to the wayside? You might hear some incredible stories about your family that you never heard before, and it provides an excellent opportunity for emotional connection and reminiscing.

A Final Word— Pet Awareness on Independence Day

Many seniors have pets, and these wonderful companions can brighten up any day. But when the fireworks start booming, those pets can get quite frightened. It makes sense – they are hearing very loud noises that they don’t understand, don’t know where they are coming from, and don’t know how to protect themselves. This can make even the most well-behaved dog or cat frantic with fear.

And of course, a frantic pet is not a safe pet around your loved one. Do your best to soothe the animal, but also keep in mind that safety comes first. Putting the pet in a small kennel with blankets to hide under is a good way to keep everyone safe. Stay close to the pet and talk to them throughout the fireworks to try and keep them calmer.

As always, Alert1 wishes you a safe and happy July 4th holiday!