Safety begins at home. The Department of Aging works with partners to ensure that older residents, their families and others who care for and serve them have the information they need in the event of an emergency. Working together, we strive to protect all of our citizens from severe weather, natural disasters and other adverse events.
Your Area Agency on Aging Can Help
Ohio's area agencies on aging make sure that each community has a plan for assisting older adults during severe weather or other emergencies. Your area agency can also help you identify resources, such as energy assistance, chore service and minor home repairs, that can help you stay safe in your home. Call 1-866-243-5678 to be connected to the agency serving your community.
Have a plan that will allow you to remain in place for at least three days should you be unable to leave your home due to weather conditions or other emergencies:
- Emergency Supplies - Create an emergency kit that contains: a battery operated radio, a flashlight, extra batteries, a signaling device (such as a loud whistle, horn or bell), food that you can open and prepare easily, water (one gallon per person per day), extra blankets and a first aid kit. Make sure you have access to a phone that will work if the electricity goes out.
- Medications - Keep a backup supply of the medications you take every day (check expiration dates every couple of months and replace if necessary). Ask your doctors for extra copies of your prescriptions for your emergency kit. Have an ice chest on hand and keep ice packs in the freezer for medications that need to be kept cool. Keep a backup stash of medical supplies such as bandages, alcohol, etc.
- Equipment and Assistive Devices - Make sure your medical equipment and assistive devices (such as canes, walkers, wheelchairs, lifts, oxygen tanks, etc.) are easy to locate in an emergency. Have spare batteries or non-powered options for any equipment that will not work if there is no electricity. Keep written instructions on how to operate and move your medical and adaptive equipment in your kit.
- Readiness - Know where the main valves and switches are for gas, water and electricity, and make sure you can operate them. Have at least one fire extinguisher and know how to use it. Designate a safe place to go (such as a friend or neighbor's house or shelter) and have a plan for getting there if it becomes unsafe to stay in your home.
- Reasonable accommodations - Be prepared to quickly explain to rescue personnel how to move you or help you move safely and rapidly (e.g., "take my oxygen tank," "get my insulin from the refrigerator").
- Safety Net - Ask a reliable family member, friend or neighbor to visit or call you in the event of severe weather or other emergency to make sure you are okay. Agree on a plan for what they should do if they are unable to reach you or find you needing help.
(Adapted from "Emergency Management Be-Prepared Kit," available at www.disabilityrightsohio.org)
Check on your neighbors
For a variety of reasons, older friends and relatives may have a harder time adjusting during extreme conditions than younger people do. If severe weather is forecasted or has just occurred, or if another type of emergency has occurred, check in on older friends and family members to ensure that they are okay and that they have the resources they need to stay safe and healthy.
Do a risk assessment:
- Does he or she depend on oxygen?
- Does he or she need help walking?
- Does he or she need help getting to the bathroom?
- Has he or she fallen?
- Does he or she need medical attention?
Check vital supplies:
- Does he or she have access to clean drinking water?
- Does he or she have the ability to cook and safely store food?
- Does he or she have access to healthy, non-perishable food that can be prepared without electricity?
- Does he or she have adequate means to keep the temperature in the home in a comfortable range?
- Does he or she have access to an adequate supply of any prescription or over-the-counter medications to maintain his or her health?
- Can he or she safely store and access his or her medications (some may need to be refrigerated or stored on ice)?
Determine his or her access to help:
- Does he or she have access to a phone that works, even if the power goes out (cordless phones and voice-over-IP service may not work during a power outage)?
- If he or she has a cell phone for emergencies, is the phone sufficiently charged?
- Instead of asking, "do you have someone to call if you need help?" questions such as, "show me how you would call your daughter if you need her to come help" will be more effective.
How to assist an older adult who appears to need help
Occasionally, during extreme situations, an older adult may appear confused or disoriented. Don't assume this is a normal reaction or due to dementia. Conditions such as dehydration, stress and fatigue can have the same symptoms. When assisting someone who appears confused or disoriented:
- Always treat adults as adults!
- Be friendly, calm and reassuring. Make eye contact and speak slowly and distinctly. Invite him or her to sit with you and have a conversation.
- Use positive language. Instead of "Don't go there," say "Let's go here."
- Ask open-ended questions. Instead of "Do you have enough to eat?" ask "What do you plan on having for breakfast/lunch/dinner?" Ask one question at a time and give time to respond.
- Avoid challenging questions. Instead of "Do you know where you are?" say "I'm glad that I came to visit you at your home today."
- Redirect, don't correct. When someone is confused, he or she may think you are someone you aren't. If he or she calls you another name, say "I haven't seen 'Joe,' but my name is _____ and I'm here to help."