Shelly Mesure, MS, OTR/L

Happy Independence Day! This is such a pivotal period in everyone’s summer plans, and what a great time for weddings, family reunions and/or the perfect simple picnic. That goes for our frail seniors, too. I know I become happy just thinking about how great it feels to experience the fresh air, sunshine and the smell of nature, and they do too — if things go well.

Summer is a very popular time for outdoor weddings. (Ladies, don’t you just love trying to walk through grass in high heels?) Every generation in my extended family usually comes together for such events, which also include our elderly loved ones who might reside full-time in a skilled nursing facility.

Unfortunately, for them, there can be many pros and cons to consider when undertaking outdoor events. But with the right planning, the cons can be greatly diminished.

First, a look at the pros:

1.   Emotional — Being included in family events is significant for our elderly loved ones, whether it’s a wedding, family reunion, or small family outings.2.   Physical — In addition to being a good source for exercise, being outdoors also can boost the Vitamin D intake without having to take extra pills.
3. Cognitive — Engaging in meaningful conversations, or reliving great stories/memories also will be a good boost to the system

Now some of the potential cons:

1.   Safety — The elderly person will need to wear good shoes to ambulate on many types of uneven surfaces, navigate obstacles and find good options for seating. I would recommend family training to help plan and learn the proper body mechanics for all anticipated issues.
2. Nature Calls — The distance or option for toileting facilities may be another challenge to consider. An outdoor wedding might have a half-mile walk or more just to reach the main building’s toilet facilities, and outdoor park settings might offer only portable potty options.
3. Medication — Some medications require the person to avoid direct sunlight. I would suggest a high SPF sunblock, but also bring an umbrella for a sunny day to provide constant shade if necessary.

These are just a few of the many pros and cons that you need to consider during these summer months. With some good planning and supportive family and caregivers, our elderly can continue to enjoy the fresh air, just like their younger counterparts.

Shelly Mesure (“measure”), MS, OTR/L, is the senior vice president of Orchestrall Rehab Solutions and owner of A Mesured Solution Inc., a rehabilitation management consultancy with clients nationwide. A former corporate and program director for major long-term care providers, she is a veteran speaker and writer on therapy and reimbursement issues.