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Autumn is here: What do cooler weather and shorter days mean for your residents and staff?

Posted by Dude Solutions Canada, Inc. | Friday, October 09, 2015

Autumn is here: What do cooler weather and shorter days mean for your residents and staff? The mild autumn weather may be a welcome respite for everyone who has sweat his or her way through the hot summer months, but there are other seasonal effects of the approaching fall that you should be aware of as the administrator of an assisted living community.

Two of the most telltale signs of the autumn season are shorter days and cooler temperatures, both of which can have significant implications for your residents and your staff members alike. As an administrator, your job is to help ensure the comfort and satisfaction of your residents and the engagement of your staff members simultaneously. That means that it's important to understand how these characteristic features of the season can impact people within your community. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Shorter days

One of the most obvious signs that fall is here is the noticeably shorter length of days. While in the summer months you may recall spending evenings outside until well after 8 or 9 p.m., when the weather starts getting colder the sun begins setting earlier as well. 

This can be a bummer for kids or younger adults, but for seniors it can actually contribute to a number of fairly serious health issues. Among the most well-known instances of this is what is referred to as "sundowners syndrome." According to A Place For Mom, this often affects residents with Alzheimer's disease or another form of dementia. Those affected by sundowning, as it's commonly called, often exhibit stronger cognitive and behavioral symptoms of their dementia in the evening. Memory problems may exacerbate, and in some cases people may become increasingly moody or agitated.

However, sundown syndrome isn't a well-understood condition with a clear physiological link. This can make treating the condition and its symptoms tricky, though there are still some things you can do as an administrator. The source noted that the effects of sundowning can be mitigated through lifestyle changes such as monitoring diet and establishing a routine for residents who are affected.

Colder weather

While you likely won't have to deal with alarmingly cold weather until the winter arrives, temperatures in fall can still drop rapidly, which may be cause for alarm in a senior retirement community setting. Senior health is a crucial component of managing your community, and with the average senior living with multiple chronic health conditions, anything that could impact a resident's physical constitution is your concern as an administrator.

With the changing seasons, you've likely already spent time having your HVAC system inspected to ensure it's fully recovered from the summer and is ready to switch gears for the coming winter. Effective climate control is important in maintaining senior health in your community.

In fact, any preventive steps you can take to ward off illness in your population will likely save you time and money down the road. It's never too early to start preparing for the flu, and with autumn here influenza season is also upon us. In addition to recommending flu shots for residents and staff members, you may also want to consider community-led programs designed to remind residents and employees of the importance of proper hygiene in flu prevention.