Spring has sprung — finally! It is time to get outside and enjoy the fresh air, chirping birds and prolific flowers!
Our senior loved ones will surely be wanting to sit on the porch, take a walk, get busy in the garden, and more.
We know how good getting moving is for our health and wellness not to mention our mental outlook.
When our seniors start to get ready to enter the great outdoors, family caregivers have new things to worry about.
Will they be safe?
What happens if they fall?
How can I protect them while allowing them to enjoy being outside?
For every question there is an answer because you have gone over the scenarios in your mind and will be ready to put prevention actions into place or be ready quickly in case of emergency.
Getting Prepared for Seniors To Go Outside
Family caregivers have so many details to organize and things to occupy their minds every day and really don’t want to worry about more things. But when spring hits and our seniors start to venture into the great outdoors, we will have to plan for what could happen and how to prevent and treat what might occur.
Medications and the Sun
Problem: Sun — many medications that our senior loved ones could be prescribed have warnings to avoid the sun because they lead to increase sun sensitivity. Exposure to the sun when taking these medicines can result in skin problems such as hives, rash or extreme sunburn. Common drugs include antihistamines, antibiotics, NSAIDS, antidepressants, chemotherapy, heart disease medications and diuretics.
Prevention: Read the labels of all your senior’s prescriptions to be aware of any drugs that could cause photosensitivity. If your senior is taking one of these drugs, it is important to use sun protection, such as sunscreen, wide brim hat, long sleeves, or sunglasses, and seek out shade when outside. Using sunscreen on all exposed skin when in the sunshine is more important to prevent sunburn.
Skin Irritation, Cuts or Scrapes
Problem: if your senior loved one is participating in activities once outdoors, such as gardening or yard maintenance, they could put themselves at risk for cuts and skin irritations.
Prevention: Remind them to wear their gloves when doing any outside work, use garden tools cautiously and restrict those that they are no longer able to operate safely, wear safety goggles and ear protection when equipment makes a loud noise, such as a lawnmower.
Problem: As the temperature rises, your senior loved one can become a victim of heat-related injury. Spending too long outside in the hot sun or not taking proper precautions to limit exposure can lead to illness.
Prevention: Be sure your senior is getting adequate water during the time they are out in the heat. Be sure they wear loose fitting clothing and a sun hat. Encourage them to seek shelter from the sun, sit under a shade tree or umbrella and come inside during the hottest portion of the day.
Problem: Too much time in the hot sun can lead to injury for our seniors.
Prevention: Wear sunglasses for eye protection, use appropriate sunscreen protection with SPF on exposed skin to prevent sunburn, stay hydrated. Lip balm and makeup with SPF would be helpful to use. Be aware of the time spent in the sun and limit exposure to early morning or late afternoon when the sun’s rays are not as damaging.
Problem: Going outside and enjoying walks in nature can put our senior loved ones at risk for injury from falling on uneven walkways.
Prevention: When walking in the yard or on the nature path, it is important to wear properly fitting shoes that can provide appropriate traction and protect them from injury. If necessary, use a walking stick to navigate the rocky road. If the path is too dangerous, find another nature view to enjoy the outdoors without injury.
Problem: When we go into the habitat of bugs, we can often become victim of bites and stings. If your senior is allergic to bees or ant bites, taking precautions is vital.
Prevention: Remind your senior to wear long sleeve shirts and long pants to prevent bug bites, mosquitoes and spider bites. If potentially coming in contact with ticks, be sure your senior tucks their pants into their socks and their shirt is tucked into pant waist to avoid having ticks cling onto them. If they have them, encourage wearing rubber boots which can prevent bug bites. If needed, use insect spray to repel bugs or citronella in the yard to reduce the number of mosquitoes.
Replace light bulbs in porch lights with bug repelling bulbs. If bugs are particularly thick, encourage your senior to stay in the safety of the screened porch. If the infestation is too great, avoid the area. When working in the yard, be alert to signs of insects like bee hives or spider webs that could put your senior in harm’s way. Ant hills buried in leaves can quickly turn into multiple ant bites that are painful and potentially dangerous. If allergic, have the epipen (epinephrine auto-injector) handy if needed.
Problem: Tetanus lives in the dirt and can be a source of infection for seniors who are unprotected. Digging in the dirt using gardening tools which may cut fragile skin can open seniors to tetanus.
Prevention: If digging in the dirt is your senior’s favorite activity, be sure they are up to date on their tetanus booster shot. Discuss with your senior’s doctor when they are due for a booster to be sure they are covered.
Enjoying the Beauty of Nature
Everyone loves fresh air, sunshine, flowers, birds and even rain clouds! Being outside in nature makes our spirits sing.
Most of our seniors grew up outside. They played outside all day long and even worked outdoors, so for them being out of the house is in their blood. It may be hard to keep them from wandering outside – ready or not!
It is important for caregivers to be proactive, to be sure their seniors are protected. We don’t want them to get injured either by bugs, germs or falling while trying to commune with nature.
We do want them to enjoy the sensory experience that nature and being outdoors can provide them. If they are unable to work the garden or take a walk, you can bring that experience to them in the cover of a shaded porch. Bring them pots to plant and items from nature to touch and smell. It will not only stimulate their senses and their memories but will certainly bring a smile to their faces (and yours too!).
Make time to enjoy the magic of the outdoors with your senior loved ones!