Important Fall and Winter Health and Safety Reminders for Seniors

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Cue the trick-or-treaters, colorful fall foliage, cooler temperatures and shorter days . . . fall is here! If you are a senior or help care for one, don’t miss this quick health and safety checklist to prepare for the coldest seasons of the year:

Staying Warm

Don’t get caught off guard from a surprise cold-snap! Taking steps now to ensure your warmth when the temperature outside drops can help you both stay comfortable as well as ward off potential colds and infections.

  • Get out your favorite throw blanket and drape it over a commonly used chair or couch so you have it handy

  • Check your windows to make sure there aren’t any holes in the screens and that they are fully closing and locking tight to prevent air from getting in or out

  • Make sure you have warm clothes out of storage for layering like lightweight long-sleeve shirts, flannels, sweatshirts, thick socks, etc.

  • Rearrange furniture to fight drafts in the house, i.e. place the back of a couch against a drafty window

  • If you struggle with paying your heating bills, contact your local Council on Aging to see if they know of any heating assistance resources that may be available to you

Preventing Falls

Did you know that over 25,000+ adults over 65 are dying from fall-related causes every year in the U.S. Even if you are fully mobile and in the best shape of your life, it is critical that you take fall prevention steps at home to protect yourself against accidental injury.

  • Clear clutter that has collected over the year and remove trip hazards from the floor (like loose cords and throw rugs)

  • Upgrade your bathtub or shower with easy-to-install assistive tools like grab bars, non-slip bath mats, and shower chairs

  • Make sure lighting throughout your home is bright and consistent from room to room, including stairs and entryways

  • Stock up on sand, salt, or other items you use to prevent ice buildup on your porch, sidewalk, deck, etc.

  • Go ahead and recruit a neighborhood kid or local service for scraping and shoveling your sidewalk and driveway in the event of a winter storm

Checking Your Health

Fall signals the start of cold and flu season, and with shocking mortality rates reported from last year’s flu, it is more important than ever that you see to important health-related items on your checklist as soon as possible.

  • Get the seasonal influenza vaccine and talk to your doctor about additional vaccinations available to seniors for pneumonia

  • Talk to all your prescribing doctors about any medications you are taking (prescription, over-the-counter, and supplements) and side-effects or interactions you should be mindful of, i.e. dizziness that might increase your risk for falling

  • If you haven’t had your vision or hearing checked this year, schedule an appointment and address any hearing or seeing issues that could inhibit safe mobility and driving

  • Dehydration is common among seniors and in the dry, cool air of fall, it can become even worse. In addition to drinking lots of water, stay hydrated with water-rich fall foods like soups, stews, and chilis.

Maintaining Your Mobility

Autumn often brings more inclement weather, especially as temperatures drop and freezing rain, sleet, and snow are more prevalent. Icy conditions can be extremely hazardous for seniors who utilize mobility aids. Whether you use wheelchairs to keep you mobile, canes, walkers, or knee scooters, don’t forget to see to important maintenance issues before the weather gets bad.

  • Give your mobility aid a tune-up, i.e. check the brakes, tighten loose screws, take your wheelchair to a repair service, and replace worn-out parts

  • Check out helpful accessories for your mobility aid that can come in handy during the fall and winter like utility lighting, waterproof wheelchair and walker bags, and ergonomic seat cushions

  • Remember to fully charge power chair and scooter batteries prior to going outside for extended periods as cold weather can have a draining effect on them

Fall is also a great time to address regular home safety items like checking that batteries are working on all smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the home, especially if you use a fireplace or space heaters for heat.

For seniors who drive, don’t forget that clocks fall back an hour in early November (end of daylight savings time). The sun will set earlier and can negatively impact your visibility while you are on the road. Keep this in mind as you make holiday travel plans!

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