Q: As I have gotten older, it seems my allergies are getting worse, especially this time of year. Also, I know there are other things to watch for such as slippery leaves. How can older adults remain healthy and safe during this change of seasons? — JM
Answer: Autumn officially started on Saturday, Sept. 22. The fall season, even with its beautiful changing leaves and cooler weather, often presents unique health and lifestyle challenges for some people. Being well prepared and making a few adjustments to your daily routine may help you find the next change of season easier to navigate.
It is quite common for some people to experience increased allergy symptoms at this time of year. Luckily, there are some simple things you can do that may offer a bit of relief. First of all, allergy sufferers should try to avoid outdoor activity, especially in the early morning, when pollen counts are highest. Staying indoors on dry, windy days whenever possible can help reduce allergic flare-ups. Experts suggest wearing a mask when raking leaves or doing yard work.
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It’s also a good idea to remove your clothes and shower immediately upon returning inside after doing yard work to rinse any pollen from your skin and hair. Keeping indoor air dry with the help of a dehumidifier and trying to keep windows and doors closed when possible can also help alleviate seasonal allergy symptoms. Your physician may be able to suggest some over-the-counter allergy medication that would work well for you.
Performing home heating, ventilation and air conditioning maintenance is another way to make the second half of the year less stressful. As the weather cools and you prepare to turn off your air conditioner for the summer, be sure to clean the coils and cover the outside unit to prevent debris from clogging the vents.
Also, have your home heating system inspected to make certain it is safe and in good working order. It’s best to have a professional evaluate the system and address any potential problems before cold weather sets in. Be certain that any technician you hire holds the proper certifications and licenses for that type of work.
It might also be a good idea to have chimneys inspected and cleaned before using your fireplace. Remember, never use a stove or oven to heat your residence. If you use a space heater, it is recommended that you have at least 3 feet of open space around the heater to avoid the risk of fire.
Finally, when you’re driving (perhaps to the mountains to view fall foliage), remember there are certain potential hazards you should be on the lookout for. It is not uncommon to encounter deer in the roadways this time of year, as they become more active during fall months. Also, leaves that have fallen on the roadway can disguise hazardous objects and cover threats like potholes. Also, wet leaves can cause roads to become slippery—so drive with caution. You can find more fall safety driving tips at http://bit.ly/2OInk3F. These are just a few actions you can take to help make this a safe and comfortable turn of the season.
Q: My brother has recently moved into a long-term care facility. What can I do if I ever have some concerns about the care he is receiving? — SP
Answer: We reached out to a Long Term Care Ombudsman at Piedmont Triad Regional Council (PTRC) Area Agency on Aging for advice and the information below.
A good place to start is to speak with the long-term care facility staff about your concerns, if you have not done so already. Reach out to the director of the facility and document all worrisome incidents and the efforts you have made to communicate about them with the staff. You can file a formal grievance with the facility and give them an opportunity to provide proper follow up.
If your concerns are not addressed and you believe that problems are continuing even after you have addressed the appropriate persons at the facility, you can contact the local Long Term care Ombudsmen for support. These are non-regulatory advocates who work on behalf of long-term care residents. They work to uphold residents’ rights and provide mediation as a means of addressing concerns related to quality of care.
They serve as a voice for long term care residents and their families. Common complaints that an ombudsman might investigate and help resolve include inadequate medical and personal services, financial concerns, rights of residents, and long term care administrative decisions, such as admission and discharge.
The Long Term Care Ombudsman Program began in 1972 and operates in all states. The program falls under the Administration on Aging, which is federally funded by the Older Americans Act. This free program also gives guidance about long-term care systems, educates community groups and providers on various topics, and alerts policymakers to long-term care issues. When the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program cannot resolve grievances alone, the program works with appropriate regulatory agencies and refers individuals to these agencies if necessary. For more information about your local Long Term Care Ombudsman Program, contact the Piedmont Triad Regional Council at www.ptrc.org or 336-904-0300.
If the complaint is related to a Family Care Home or an Adult Care Home, you can reach out to the PTRC Long Term Care Ombudsman Program for contact information to reach the Adult Home Specialist for that area or call Forsyth County Department of Social Services at 336-703-3800.
In the event that concerns cannot be resolved through the Ombudsman program you can always file a complaint with the North Carolina Division of Health Service Regulation. Their complaint hotline numbers are 919-855-4500 or 1-800-624-3004, and their website is ncha.org/glossary/division-health-service-regulation-dhsr/. There is a list of agencies and contacts for other common issues on this site, as well.
AgeWise is a weekly column compiled by staff of Senior Services Inc., a nonprofit organization in Winston-Salem. If you have a question, email [email protected] or mail to Senior Services, 2895 Shorefair Drive, Winston-Salem, NC 27105.
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