In Alaska (and other places with distinct seasons) the end of summer can bring on a whole range of emotions and also trigger changes in our daily patterns. It can be a fun time of year, but it also might be a time of year that causes a little anxiety for us. As we get older, sometimes these seasonal transitions become harder to navigate.
Whether we live close to family or not, it’s helpful to work together as a family to make sure our senior loved ones are looking to the fall and winter seasons with optimism, and feeling prepared. To that end, we’ve put together a checklist (by no means comprehensive) to help you start thinking about how to manage the stresses that the end of summer bring and make the most of what fall has to offer.
- Check in on medications. Often times, our routines can be disrupted throughout the summer and our senior loved ones may or may not have kept up on medications. OR, they altered their dosages over the summer to accommodate issues that arise with heat and dehydration. It’s a good idea to check in with a senior and their doctors on medications, at least four times a year—so the end of summer is an ideal time.
- Get proactive about seasonal mood changes. Many people, particularly in Alaska, suffer from seasonal depression or seasonal affective disorder, in the fall and winter months. Seniors can be especially vulnerable to this. It’s a good time to start thinking about ways to prevent these potential mood changes from becoming more serious. First, learn what the signs and symptoms are and be cued into the seniors in your life to see if they occur. Also, work with their doctors and caregivers to explore options like vitamin D, full-spectrum lights and if necessary, anti-depressants.
- Prepare for winter. We know that winter can present unique challenges to the elderly. Seniors are more susceptible to hypothermia and other cold-related problems, because their bodies can’t regulate as well as they used to. The risk of falling (which can cause major injuries) is also higher in the winter, due to ice and snow. The point? It’s not too early to do some cold weather planning with the seniors in your life. Plus, being prepared early helps to reduce the level of anxiety they might feel about the coming winter.
- Plan unusual activities. The fall is a wonderful time of year in Alaska (well, except maybe October). Just because the light is dwindling, doesn’t mean that you can’t keep it light. The best way to do that is by planning fun and stimulating activities throughout the season (we’ll offer some tips for that in our next post). If you spend time with your senior loved one and do a few things that are new or unusual, it’s a great way to keep the spirit buoyant— with good company and inspiration. This can provide a lot of momentum going into the winter.
- Talk about the future. When people are in the autumn of their lives, the changing of the seasons can be scary or unsettling, because they wonder if it will be the last time they see that season. It’s easy for seniors to think that if they didn’t get to do something one summer, they may never get a chance to do it again. It can be really helpful to not only talk to our senior loved ones about these thoughts, but also to make plans for the next summer. When we do this, we can change the “I didn’t get to . . .” to “We’ll do that next year!”
These are just a few things that might help you and your senior loved one enjoy the end of summer, more. We’d love to know if you have additional items to add to the checklist!