COLUMBUS – Officials from the Ohio Department of Health are urging area residents to check in on their elderly neighbors and loved ones this week and next week, with forecasters predicting continued frigid single-digit temperatures and below 0 degree wind chill across Ohio.
“Older adults are at increased risk for complications from conditions including snow, ice, bitter cold and more. Factors like age-related changes and medication side effects can intensify the impact,” said Beverley Laubert, ODA interim director.
“Extremely cold temperatures equal severe weather, and we ask all Ohioans to check on older loved ones, neighbors and friends during this and other severe weather.” Before, during and after severe winter conditions, check in on older loved ones, friends and neighbors to ensure they are OK and have the resources they need to remain safe and healthy by considering the following:
• Do they need medical attention? Have they fallen? Are they staying warm enough? Are they taking their medicines as prescribed?
• Do they have safe food and water? Are they eating and drinking regularly?
• Is the temperature in their home comfortable? Do they have safe means to heat the home if temperatures continue to fall?
• Whom will they call if they need help? Do they have access to a phone that will work without power or landline service?
Be aware that confusion, disorientation and irritability can be symptoms of conditions such as dehydration, stress and fatigue. If someone appears ill or is injured, call 911 immediately.
All Ohioans should have a winter preparedness plan that enables them to remain in place for three days if they become unable to leave their homes due to weather conditions. Each household should have an emergency kit that contains, at a minimum, a battery operated radio, flashlight, extra batteries, a loud whistle or bell, food that can be opened and prepared easily, water (one gallon per person per day), extra blankets and a first aid kit.
Older adults may have a few additional considerations, such as: a backup supply of daily medicines and the means to store them properly; ready access to medical equipment and assistive devices (canes, walkers, wheelchairs, lifts, oxygen tanks etc.) as well as spare batteries and non-powered options; a safe place to go if it becomes unsafe to stay in their own homes (public shelter, friend’s or neighbor's house) and a plan for getting there; instructions for rescue personnel to help relocate safely and quickly in an emergency.
Also, only use space heaters that have been tested and certified to the latest safety standards, and do not leave a space heater unattended. Never use a kitchen stove or any other appliance not designed to heat homes for that purpose.
Wintry precipitation, such as snow and freezing rain, also increases the risk of a potentially life-changing fall for older Ohioans. If it is necessary to go out in wintry conditions, wear boots or shoes that fit properly and have good traction.
Bundle up to stay warm, but make sure visibility and movement are not impaired. Try to walk only on surfaces that have been cleared and treated for ice and snow and use handrails whenever possible.
The Department of Aging works with the state’s 12 Area Agencies on Aging to make sure that each community has a plan for assisting older adults during weather emergencies. Area agencies can also help identify resources, such as energy assistance, chore service and minor home repairs that can help with warmth and safety this winter. Call (866) 243-5678 to be connected to the proper local agency.
More emergency preparedness advice and resources are available on the department’s Web site: www.aging.ohio.gov/safeathome.