Fall is a season of crisp air, campfires, and falling leaves. For older Americans with low mobility, poor vision, and compromised immune systems though, Fall can be a challenging time. When temperatures drop, our aging loved ones are more likely to suffer weather-related injuries, falls, and illnesses. Trip hazards especially increase in autumn and continue through winter, so extra caution and prevention methods are essential. Here are some yard safety tips, wellness advice, and DIY home improvements to help your older loved ones stay safe and healthy this fall.
Getting Help for Fall Yard Work
Especially for senior citizens, cleaning the yard and gutters should never be a one-person job. Hauling leaves, climbing ladders, and raking piles can result in back strains, broken bones, exhaustion, joint damage, and falls. Ask for help or hire someone if you or an elderly loved one are facing labor-intensive, potentially dangerous maintenance tasks. It is true that hiring a lawn care professional can be expensive, but the benefits of saving yourself or a loved one from an emergency room visit far outweigh them.
Clean Up the Yard
As trees collect water through their roots, they do not need to absorb it through their leaves. As a result, leaves develop a waxy, smooth, water-repellent surface. When leaves carpet the ground, they create a slick, dangerous surface, especially after rain. Keeping a yard clear of wet, slimy leaves is crucial to preventing slips and falls. It is best to rake the leaves on a dry day to prevent rot and lawn damage. It also creates better visibility, which is crucial for senior safety. An overgrown patch of leaves could cover up a hole or ditch in the ground, causing someone to twist their ankle or fall.
Keep walkways clear of leaves
Autumn leaves display beautiful red, orange, and golden hues that mark the end of summer. Although beautiful, these fallen leaves can be hazardous to people who have limited mobility or shuffling gaits. On a slippery, hard walkway, fallen leaves can be twice as dangerous as they are in a senior’s yard. Sweep leaves from walkways with a push broom and put the discarded piles in a trash bag so they don’t blow back onto the walkway and negate your efforts. If you are clearing a yard and driveway, make sure not to blow leaves into the street or on a public sidewalk. The increased risk of passerby injury and flooding makes this a code violation in many municipalities.
Get a Flu Shot
In the United States, autumn marks the beginning of flu season. As well as being unpleasant – with aches, vomiting, fatigue, and fever symptoms – this illness can also be dangerous for older people. In order to prevent flu infections, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that people over 65 get a yearly flu vaccine. Additionally, the CDC recommends the following flu prevention practices:
- Avoid spreading germs by covering coughs and sneezes.
- Hands should be washed frequently with soap and warm water.
- If there is no sink available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Disinfectant wipes should be used regularly to clean surfaces.
- Do not touch your mouth, nose, or eyes.
- If an infection occurs, take the prescribed antiviral medication.
Seasonal depression should be addressed
As a result of spending more time indoors during darker, cooler periods, older adults are at higher risk of seasonal depression. Depression that manifests during certain times of the year is known as seasonal depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder. The fall and winter seasons are the most common times when people with this disorder experience symptoms. If you’re a caregiver for a senior citizen, look out for depression-like symptoms that correlate with the onset of autumn. Your loved one may exhibit irritability, poor sleeping habits, loss of appetite, or chronic fatigue. In the chilly fall months, a little exercise can make a big difference. Take your loved one on a walk during the brightest part of the day so they can soak up some Vitamin D and pump up their endorphins. It may be appropriate to use medication if symptoms do not improve or progress.
Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors should be tested
With cold temperatures approaching, furnaces, fireplaces, and gas stoves are used more often to heat homes. If improperly operated, these appliances can pose a serious threat. The presence of carbon monoxide in a home can pose a health risk if there is insufficient ventilation around a stove or gas appliance. It is essential to protect tenants from this toxic gas, which is odorless and invisible. Make sure your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are in good working order before the fall season arrives. Replace batteries when necessary and perform tests on these devices. Keep flammable items away from heating appliances, including blankets, curtains, jackets, etc.
Dress for the Weather
It’s important to wear warm clothes in cold autumn climates since older people lose body heat more quickly than younger people. The rapid loss of heat puts seniors at a greater risk of hypothermia. Even if it’s not freezing outside, a cold wind can cause your body temperature to drop rapidly and cause liver damage, heart attack, and kidney failure. Layering sweaters and coats maximize outdoor safety, according to the National Institute on Aging. To prevent heat from escaping through the body’s extremities, wear a hat, scarf, gloves, and thick socks. When the weather is cold and wet, wear waterproof clothing. Those with thyroid issues, diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, arthritis, or memory loss should exercise extra caution in cool weather.
Utilize Other Fall Prevention Tools
Creating a safer home and yard for seniors begins with implementing proven fall prevention methods. The key word here is preventable. A leaf-speckled autumn lawn can be made more accessible by using some of the following tools:
- Wear non-slip shoes on slippery surfaces to improve traction.
- Use non-skid surface mats on areas that tend to be slippery, such as wooden decks, walkways, and carports.
- Install handrails and lights along outdoor walkways to reduce the risk of falling.
- In preparation for the shorter and darker days to come, test the home’s light bulbs to ensure they are working properly.
- Using a smart light system, you can control lighting without walking across a dark room.
Consider medical alert systems
Accidents can still happen despite fall prevention methods. A life-saving fall can be prevented by having an emergency helpline on hand. Having a medical alert system installed is a great way to get help – especially if you or a loved one are injured and can’t reach a telephone. Various models are available, so users can choose the right one for them. Wearable fall detection sensors can be worn at all times by the individual. Whenever a fall occurs, the device’s accelerometers and gyroscopes sense the change and alert first responders immediately. Environmental monitors are medical alert devices that detect gas leaks and smoke before an emergency occurs. Homeowners might be alerted to a problem before they even realize it.
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