Health Info & Resources for Seniors
Autumn’s colorful foliage and moderate temperatures make it a great time to get out and enjoy the great outdoors — but before lacing up your sneakers, keep these safety tips in mind, advises geriatric medicine specialist, Roopa Anmolsingh, MD. “While the changing leaves can be beautiful, they can also be treacherous,” warns Dr. Anmolsingh of St. Luke’s Senior Care Associates. “Fallen leaves can obscure walking hazards such as uneven pavement and potholes. If you’re walking on a path in the woods or a park, fallen leaves might cover rocks, loose gravel, and tree roots, that could cause you to trip. Wear proper-fitting, nonslip shoes with good traction. If you like to hike on wooded pathways, you might want to invest in a good pair of hiking shoes that can give you better footing and protect your toes.”
Also, when leaves are wet, they can be slippery. Dr. Anmolsingh suggests older adults remove leaves around their doors, walkways, decks, patios, and driveways. However, if they’re doing the removal themselves, she
suggests they take care not to become overexerted. She advises tretching to ensure your muscles are ready, standing straight when raking, pulling from your arms and legs, and taking 10 – 15-minute breaks. “Raking leaves can be as strenuous as shoveling snow or an intense workout,” she says. “Rather than trying to finish the job all at once, particularly if you have a big yard and a lot of trees, break it up into small periods over
many days. Be sure to tell a family member or a friend when you are going out and when you have finished in case you should happen to fall. Finally, don’t feel as though you have to do it yourself. Ask a family member, friend, or neighbor to help, or hire a lawn service.”
Wet leaves on roadways are hazardous and can be as slippery as ice. The film of water that covers the top of the leaves can cause your car to skid. If you begin to slide, take your foot off the gas, but don’t slam on the brakes. Point your vehicle in the direction you want to go if you start to slide. Be sure to clear your car of leaves before heading out. Leaves that blow off your hood onto your windshield can block your view of the road. “Frost is another autumn peril,” she says. “After many months of warm weather, an early frost can catch you off guard. Hurrying out on a cold morning might result in a fall as your feet hit the slippery frost-covered porch, stoop, or driveway. Get into the habit of checking the weather before leaving your home and give yourself enough time before heading out.”
For older adults who have trouble seeing at night, Dr. Anmolsingh reminds them that the days are getting increasingly shorter. Schedule your appointments for the morning or early afternoon so you’re sure to get home before dark, she suggests, especially after we turn the clocks back for daylight savings time on November 1. Contrast sensitivity, glare sensitivity, and visual acuity, with reduced illumination, can contribute to vision impairment, so ensure your eye exams are up-to-date. Schedule vehicle maintenance to ensure fluids, headlights, and taillights, are all in working condition as the season changes. We recommend dressing in layers as we enter fall. That way, it is easy to remove clothing to adjust to temperatures. Also, be careful when using candles, whether to create a cozy atmosphere, enjoy their fragrance, or provide light. Pets and children in the vicinity can contribute to creating a fire hazard.
Ensure home safety by checking your carbon monoxide and smoke detectors and keeping flammable objects in a safe place. Make sure your home is properly insulated and windows are secured, and avoid sitting near a drafty window. The National Institutes of Health warns that hypothermia can develop quickly in older patients if exposed to even mildly-cold temperatures. Shorter days might also affect your levels of vitamin D, which most people derive from sunshine. Vitamin D is essential for maintaining healthy bones and teeth, and may protect against certain diseases. If you’re unable to get out during the daytime, talk to your doctor about whether you should take a vitamin D supplement if you are deficient in vitamin D. Other good sources of vitamin D are fatty fish, such as salmon, lake trout, and tuna, egg yolks, fortified cereals, and cheese.
Hydration in the cooler months is just as important as during the summer months. So, unless you have a condition restricting your fluid intake, such as heart failure or electrolyte imbalances, it is important to drink
adequate water and adhere to a balanced diet. Chronic pain may also flare up as the weather changes, for which many persons freely overmedicate themselves at will. Check with your doctor to ensure that you are on a safe pain regimen. “People who enjoy the warm temperatures and long days of summer can become a little down this time of year,” Dr. Anmolsingh warns. “But with a little attention to safety hazards, autumn can be an excellent time to enjoy a walk in a park or just simply tinker around your home.” Many of us tend to socialize less as it slowly gets cooler, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic, so be sure to use facetime and telephone calls to friends and family so you are not isolated.