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Ohio Department of Aging Press Release

June 12, 2013

Statement from Bonnie Kantor-Burman regarding impact of forecasted severe weather on elders

Director of Ohio Department of Aging advocates planning, checking on neighbors

Bonnie Kantor-Burman, Director, Ohio Department of AgingColumbus, Ohio - "Authorities are tracking a storm system capable of bringing severe weather conditions into most parts of Ohio Wednesday and Thursday this week. Conditions could include flooding, strong winds and power outages. We are concerned for all Ohioans who may be affected by this storm system and urge everyone, especially our elders and their caregivers, to plan ahead and be prepared.

"Resources to help families and individuals create an emergency plan and build a kit of essentials can be found at www.ready.ohio.gov. Learn about severe weather threats by visiting www.weathersafety.ohio.gov.

"As severe conditions approach and after they have passed, please check on your friends, family and neighbors in your community to ensure they have power, food, water, medicines and necessary supplies to stay safe and healthy until things return to normal. Also, staying cool will be a big concern, as older adults can be more susceptible to heat-related illnesses.

"Older adults, people with disabilities and their families can call 1-866-243-5678 to be connected to their local area agency on aging's resources and programs that can provide help in their communities."

Tips for checking on your neighbors during and after severe weather:

Download a printable factsheet.

Communicate Effectively

  • Always treat adults as adults. If someone isn't making sense, don't assume it is dementia. Dehydration, stress, and fatigue have similar symptoms.
  • Use a natural tone of voice and conversational style of communication. Be calm and reassuring, speak slowly and distinctly, and make eye contact. Use positive language: Instead of "Don't..." suggest what they should do.
  • Ask open-ended questions. Instead of "Are you staying warm/cool?" ask "What are you doing to stay warm/cool today?" "Where will you go if the power does not come back on tomorrow?"
  • Don't ask "testing" or "challenging" questions. Instead of "Do you know your name?" ask "What would you like me to call you?" Instead of "Do you know where you are?" say "I'm glad that I came to visit you at your home today."
  • Don't correct an adult who appears to be confused. For example, if the person calls you by someone else's name, say "I haven't seen 'Joe' lately but my name is ... and I'll stay with you until your family comes by" or "I'll call someone so 'Joe' will know where you are." Avoid arguing, but validate feelings.

Do a Risk Assessment

While visiting, observe his or her surroundings and ask questions that will help you determine if this person is healthy and safe, or if he or she may need some assistance.

  • Does the person depend on oxygen?
  • Does he or she need help walking?
  • Does he or she need help getting to the bathroom?
  • Does he or she have skin that is flushed or grey-ish? (If so, he or she may require medical attention.)

Also check if individuals have what they will need for the next several days, including water, non-perishable food, temperature control and medications. Refrigerated food should be thrown out after 2 hours without electricity. Also, some medications may need to be refrigerated or stored on ice to remain safe and effective.

Make Sure They Can Get Help

Make sure the person is able to call for help if he or she needs it. Don't assume the person's phone is working: check the connection and battery charge. Some may not realize that cordless phones need electricity to work and/or charge. Instead of asking, "Do you have someone to call if you need help?" asking, "Show me how you would call your daughter if you need her to come help," will be more effective.

About ODA - The Ohio Department of Aging works to ensure that our elders are respected as vital members of society who continue to grow, thrive and contribute. We work with state agencies and community partners, including area agencies on aging, to help integrate aging needs into local plans and ensure that aging Ohioans have access to a wide array of high-quality services and supports that are person-centered in policy and practice. Our programs include the PASSPORT Medicaid waiver, caregiver support, the long-term care ombudsman program, the Golden Buckeye Card and more. Visit www.aging.ohio.gov.


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