Preparing your senior loved one for the autumn season

October 28, 2021

The autumnal equinox began on September 22, 2021. At the start of the fall season, the sun rises later and nightfall arrives sooner. Plenty of environmental changes occur, making it necessary to make adjustments and prepare a senior loved one for the cooler season.

1. Rake the leaves

Crimson autumn leaves are a breathtaking sight. The leaves change color because of the amount of daylight and photosynthesis, and not the cooler temperatures. Despite their beauty, fallen leaves are hazardous for seniors. Prevent accidental falls by raking up leaves on the driveway and yard.

Give the roads, sidewalks and walkways ample attention, taking care to remove all fallen debris. If the senior’s home has exterior stairs, strongly consider installing handrails on both sides. Also place a non-skid surface in this area to prevent slipping and falling on the damp leaves.

2. Drive with caution

Daylight Savings Time ends in early autumn, leading to fewer daylight hours. As darkness descends sooner, elderly drivers should take extra precautions. Due to seniors’ poor eyesight, driving in the dark can be hazardous. If driving is necessary, consider contacting a home care agency to hire a professional caregiver for transportation.

3. Maintain the vehicle

Prevent the likelihood of a car accident or an untimely breakdown in adverse weather by scheduling a tune up of the senior’s car. Correct air pressure in tires. Headlights, tail lights and signals should work properly. Make sure the heat in the car works, so senior drivers stay warm.

4. Get a flu shot

Getting a flu vaccine for the 2020-2021 flu season is especially critical for people ages 65 and older due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though aging immune systems tend to respond poorly to vaccinations, flu vaccinations reduce the number of flu-related hospitalizations.

People over 65 have two flu vaccine options. The first, a high dose flu vaccine, is associated with a higher immune response. The second, the adjuvanted flu vaccine, also promotes a stronger immune response to vaccination. For seniors, either option is advised instead of the regular flu shot.

5. Add artificial light

With the days growing darker in the autumn months, seniors will rely more on artificial light inside the home. Anticipate the need for extra lightbulbs, batteries and candles. If using candles, advise the senior to never leave them unattended and to always be present when they burn.

Consider installing smart lights in the senior’s home; these lights turn on automatically upon sensing motion. Plug in nightlights in the hallways to the bathroom to assist during emergency trips. Keep in mind that inadequate lighting is a major contributor to senior falls.

6. Test smoke detectors

While the candles burn, they emit smoke. Stay on top of fire safety by checking the batteries in the smoke detectors in the senior’s home. A good reminder is to check the smoke detectors when daylight saving time starts in March and ends in November. At the same time, check the functionality of carbon monoxide detectors.

7. Wear warm clothes

When the weather outside is chilly, people reach for the cozy hats, mittens and coats. But a senior with dementia may fail to realize the dangers of frigid weather. Prepare ahead for the cold weather by ensuring an elderly loved one has easy access to warm weather clothing.

Just as warm clothes are necessary for the autumn months, waterproof, nonslip shoes are too. Wet, slippery leaves and icy rain are pathways to outdoor falls. Prevent a fall by encouraging the senior to wear slip-resistant outdoor shoes when heading out of the house.

Inside the home, non-skid shoes are ideal. Remember that the moisture from rain can be tracked indoors, leading to small puddles and slippery floors. The combination of water, poor lighting and clutter in the halls can result in a fall. Prepare the senior by having her wear non-skid shoes inside.

8. Inspect the heater

Fall weather can drop to uncomfortably cold temperatures, especially at night. Families should ensure the senior’s heater works by scheduling heating maintenance well before the cool season. Schedule a chimney inspection and cleaning of the fireplace to prevent a flue fire.

9. Adjust thermostat

Fall is also a good time to adjust the thermostat. Even better, consider installing a smart thermostat in the senior’s home. Some smart thermostats are designed specifically for seniors and include large icons for increased visibility, ease of use and improved control for those with limited motor skills.

10. Wash hands

Seasonal illnesses may be warded off with frequent hand washing. Encourage seniors to regularly wash their hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. The coronavirus, too, is disabled with handwashing with soap and water or using an alcohol- based hand sanitizer.

11. Exercise, eat and sleep

Exercise, like yoga or walking, can help decrease a senior’s chances of becoming sick during the autumn season. Physical activity also promotes strong muscles and healthy joints, which can reduce fall risks. A good night’s rest helps to keep a senior’s immune system healthy.

Nourishment is essential. A senior loved one should partake in the autumnal season’s bounties, like sweet potato, broccoli, pumpkin and cranberries, to promote heart health and boost the immune system. If the senior is unable to cook, a professional caregiver will prepare nutrient- rich dishes.

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