Caregiver’s Guide to Swimming Safety for Seniors

By Susan Ashby Swimming safety for seniors is a little more complicated than it first seems. Anyone who has cared for an aging parent knows that sometimes they feel they need less help than they really do. Everyone wants to maintain their independence for as long as possible. The trick is to find the level of assistance that you as the caregiver can feel comfortably ensures your senior is reasonably safe, and one which they feel is not intrusive or overly cautious.  So, let's start with basic pool safety. If your seniors are living at home and they have a pool, or they live with you and you have a pool, there are some easy things you can do to decrease the likelihood of anything harmful, from falls to sunburns.  Use sunscreen.  Reapply at least every two hours. Avoid alcohol. Seniors are more susceptible to alcohol, and the heat and activity can intensify the effect of alcohol consumption. Use safety rails. Most injuries to seniors in the pool occur entering or exiting the pool. Make sure stairs have a safety rail your senior can hold onto when they enter or exit the pool. This is also necessary if they have a hot tub or spa. If you have an above-ground pool and provide elder care, replace ladders with stairs. Texturize your deck. Make sure the surface of the deck and the stairs are not slippery. Add texture strips if necessary or provide swim shoes for your senior that are textured and which will prevent slipping. Remove all items from the pool deck and in the water. Provide a hanger for the hose and poles used for skimming debris from the pool. Make sure there is a bin for pool toys. Don’t leave pool cleaners in the pool where the senior could become entangled. Emphasize and enforce the “buddy system” in your safety pool routines. No one may enter the pool alone. There must always be a second person present. Get help. As they age, many seniors find that their sense of balance is not what it once was. Maybe now is the time to hire a pool service to clean the pool rather than your senior standing at the edge of the pool and trying to get leaves off the pool bottom.
​If you are providing elderly care for a senior who has dementia or Alzheimer’s, you will have to take additional precautions. Swimming can still be a great activity, especially if your senior is used to swimming as a fitness activity or if it has been a relaxing stress relief for them. Here are some additional precautions you should consider. Implement team swimming. Your senior never enters the pool without another person right with them. That person should stay within arm’s reach of your senior at all times. Use safety devices. Your senior should wear a life vest. If the person you provide elderly care for loses their balance and goes underwater, these life vests will automatically turn the swimmer face up when they reach the surface. Mark its depth. If your pool has a deep end, use a buoy line to give your senior a visual reminder of where the depth starts to change.
A person with dementia or Alzheimer’s is at risk of accidental drowning. They will make decisions spontaneously and unpredictably. As the disease progresses, they will have more difficulty understanding the danger.

Keep the pool locked. Install locks on your gates for pool safety. The latch at the top of the gate will not prevent an at-risk senior from entering the pool area. Install locks and keep the key secure. Install alarms on your gates. The sooner you know someone is attempting to enter the pool area, the better able you are to prevent that entry. Install a pool alarm. These alarms sense the movement of the water when anything or anyone enters the pool and sets off the alarm. It is your last defense. Install a surveillance camera. There are cameras for the pool area that will be activated when there is activity in the pool area. Live video will be streamed to your smartphone, computer, or tablet. Email and text message alerts will be sent automatically. If you think your senior is in trouble, you are able to call for help immediately.

These tips will help to ensure that your senior can continue to enjoy their pool or yours in safety. While you may not need all the aids listed at this time, it is always better to be proactive with pool safety measures. Swimming and water recreation are wonderful for the body and spirit, and these tips are meant to keep that enjoyment throughout the senior’s lifetime. #Guides #Fitness #Safety