9 Autumn Safety Tips For Older Adults

9 Autumn Safety Tips For Older Adults

Autumn is a season beloved for its crisp air, campfires, and falling leaves. Despite these undoubtedly cheerful signs of the season, fall can be a difficult time for older Americans with low mobility, poor sight, and compromised immune systems. These folks are at a higher risk for weather-related injuries, falls, and sickness as temperatures decrease. 

If you or a loved one are worried about what the fall season means for your health and well-being, don’t fret. This article will address nine autumn safety tips that seniors should know before the first leaf drops.

9 Autumn Safety Tips Every Senior Citizen Should Know

The following sections will provide yard safety tips, wellness advice, and DIY home improvements for optimal senior living throughout the fall season. We’ll show you how to minimize safety hazards and maximize wellness as the weather cools.

Find Assistance for Fall Yard Work

Cleaning the yard and gutters should never be a one-person job – especially for senior citizens. These folks risk back strains, broken bones, exhaustion, joint damage, and falls while hauling leaves, climbing ladders, and raking piles.

If you or an elderly loved one are facing labor-intensive, potentially dangerous maintenance tasks like cleaning up leaves or unclogging gutters, ask for help or hire someone. Yes, hiring professional lawn care can be costly. However, those costs are well worth getting the job done thoroughly and saving yourself a trip to the ER. 

If you or a family member need yard maintenance assistance, consider contacting the Yard Angels or a similar program for volunteer help with outdoor tasks.

Clean Up the Yard

The University of Minnesota recommends removing at least 80% of a lawn’s leaf coverage to promote healthy turfgrass and prevent mold diseases. But, what does raking have to do with seasonal safety for seniors?

Trees collect water with roots, negating the need for absorption through their leaves. For this reason, leaves develop a waxy, smooth, water-repellent surface. Once they’ve carpeted the ground, leaves create a slick, dangerous surface – especially in rainy conditions.

Clearing a yard is crucial in ensuring no one slips and falls on wet, slimy leaves. You should rake the leaves on a dry day so that rot and lawn damage don’t have the chance to develop. Tidying up the yard also creates more visibility, which is crucial to senior safety. A thick blanket of leaves could cover up a hole or ditch in the ground, resulting in someone twisting their ankle or suffering a nasty fall.

Clear Leaves from Walkways

Autumn leaves boast beautiful red, orange, and golden hues that signal the end of summer. While lovely, these fallen leaves can be hazardous to folks with limited mobility or shuffling gait. In the same way fallen leaves are dangerous in a senior’s yard, they can be twice as scary on a slippery, hard walkway.

Remove leaves from a walkway by sweeping them with a push broom. Collect the discarded piles in a trash bag to keep them from blowing back onto the walkway and negating the hard work. Avoid blowing leaves onto the street or public sidewalk while clearing a yard and driveway. Many municipalities consider this a code violation because it increases the risk of passerby injury and flood damage.

Get a Flu Shot

Autumn signals the beginning of flu season in the United States. This illness isn’t just unpleasant – with aches, vomiting, fatigue, and fever symptoms – it’s also downright dangerous for older adults. Adults 65 years and up should be particularly diligent with influenza prevention practices. Their declining immune systems put them at a higher risk for flu-related heart problems, lung disease, and stroke. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that folks over 65 get a yearly flu vaccine to ward off infection. The CDC also suggests the following flu prevention practices:

  • Cover coughs and sneezes to avoid spreading germs. 
  • Wash hands frequently with soap and warm water. 
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if there is no access to a sink.
  • Clean surfaces regularly with disinfectant wipes.
  • Avoid touching the mouth, nose, and eyes.
  • Take the prescribed antiviral medications if infection occurs.

Address Seasonal Depression

Older adults are at higher risk for seasonal depression during darker, cooler periods – often because they spend more time isolated indoors. Seasonal depression – or Seasonal Affective Disorder – is a type of depression that manifests during certain times of the year. Most people with this disorder experience symptoms during the fall or winter seasons.

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.

As simple as it may seem, a little exercise can go a long way in the chilly fall months. Encourage your loved one to go on walks during the brightest part of the day to soak up some Vitamin D and get those endorphins pumping. If symptoms progress or lack improvement, medication may be a suitable treatment for this health problem if symptoms progress or lack improvement.

Test Carbon Monoxide Detectors and Smoke Alarms 

People are more likely to use furnaces, fireplaces, and gas stoves to heat their homes as cold temperatures arrive. These appliances are surely cozy and delightful, but they can pose a serious threat if operating improperly.

If a stove or gas appliance doesn’t have sufficient ventilation, it can leak hazardous amounts of carbon monoxide into a home. This toxic gas is odorless and invisible, so having a fully functional detector is imperative to the safety of all tenants.

Before the fall season arrives, check carbon monoxide detectors and smoke alarms to ensure they’re in working order. Run tests on these devices and replace batteries as needed. Then, prevent fires by keeping flammable items – blankets, curtains, jackets, etc. – away from heating appliances.

Dress for the Weather

Older adults lose body heat much faster than younger folks, which means warm clothes are a must in cold autumn climates. This rapid heat loss puts seniors at a higher risk of developing hypothermia. Even if outdoor temps aren’t freezing, a chilly wind can cause a rapid drop in body temperature and an increased risk of liver damage, heart attack, and kidney failure.

The National Institute on Aging suggests layering sweaters and coats for maximized outdoor safety. Then, top off the outfit with a hat, scarf, gloves, and thick socks to prevent heat from escaping through the body’s extremities. Be sure to wear waterproof clothing in cold, wet weather. Remember to exercise extra caution in cool weather if you or your loved one have thyroid issues, diabetes, Parkinson’s Disease, arthritis, or memory loss.

Utilize Other Fall Prevention Tools

The CDC reports that over 36,000 Americans ages 65 and up died from preventable falls in 2020. Nearly 3 million seniors sought emergency care for fall-related injuries. Don’t let yourself or a loved one be one of these fall victims this autumn. 

The key word in the above statistic is preventable, meaning there are tried and true fall prevention methods you can implement to create a safer home and yard for seniors. Here are some tools to minimize trip hazards and improve the accessibility of a leaf-speckled autumn lawn:

  • Invest in non-slip shoes that improve traction on wet, slippery surfaces.
  • Place non-skid surface mats around slickness-prone areas like wooden decks, walkways, and carports.
  • Reduce the risk of falling by installing handrails and lights along outdoor walkways.
  • Before days become shorter and darker, test the home’s light bulbs to ensure everything works properly. 
  • Install a smart light system so you can operate lighting from a phone without walking across a dark room.

Consider a Medical Alert System

No matter how many fall prevention methods you put in place, accidents can still happen. The last thing you can do to protect yourself or a family member from a life-threatening fall is to have an emergency helpline on hand.

Installing a medical alert system is an excellent way to get help – especially if you or your loved one are injured and can’t reach a telephone. These devices come in various models, allowing users to select the best choice for their needs. 

Fall detection sensors are wearable devices the individual can keep on at all times. If a person suffers a fall, the device’s accelerometer and gyroscope features sense the changes and alert first responders automatically. Environmental monitors are medical alert devices that detect gas leaks and smoke before a true emergency escalates. These tools might send for help before the homeowner even notices a problem.

Senior Living’s Editor in Chief Jeff Hoyt describes the functionality and importance of medical alert devices for seniors:

Final Thoughts

We hope this article gives you the senior safety tips you need for a fantastic fall season. Remember that trip hazards escalate in autumn and continue throughout winter, so implementing prevention methods and extra caution is critical.

With these safety tips in mind, you and your loved ones are ready to enjoy all the wonders autumn offers.

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