COLUMBUS - After a mild December, January is bringing winter weather to Ohio, with a blast of snow and cold temperatures forecasted for most of the state over the next few days. Because older adults are at increased risk of complications from cold and snow, the Ohio Department of Aging encourages all Golden Buckeyes to have a plan to stay warm and injury-free.
"As we age, our bodies react differently to extreme conditions, in part because we lose body heat more quickly and also because we are more likely to take medications that affect our ability to regulate body temperature," said Bonnie K. Burman, director of the department.
It's not too late to prepare. Create a plan today 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:
- Create an emergency kit that contains a battery operated radio, a flashlight, extra batteries, a loud whistle or bell, food that you can open and prepare easily, water (one gallon per person per day), extra blankets and a first aid kit.
- Keep a backup supply of the medications you take every day. Have an ice chest on hand and keep ice packs in the freezer for medications that need to be kept cool.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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").
(Adapted from "Emergency Management Be-Prepared Kit," available at www.disabilityrightsohio.org)
The Ohio 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. Your area agency can also help you identify resources, such as energy assistance, chore service and minor home repairs that can help you stay warm and safe this winter. Call 1-866-243-5678 to be connected to the agency serving your community, or visit www.aging.ohio.gov for local contacts.
"Snow, ice and inactivity can also increase the risk of falling for older adults during winter," Burman added. "Falls are the leading cause of injury-related hospitalizations and deaths in older Ohioans and the risk goes up with ice and snow."
To prevent falls, the STEADY U Ohio initiative encourages you to "Win Winter!"
- Dress warmly, but be sure you can still see in all directions and move easily and freely.
- Wear sturdy shoes or boots with good treads.
- Allow extra time to get to where you're going.
- Keep sidewalks and stairs outside your home clean of ice and snow.
- Carry a cell phone and designate someone to call for help if you need it.
For more winter falls prevention tips, visit www.steadyu.ohio.gov.
The department encourages all Ohioans to check on their older loved ones and neighbors during extreme weather conditions. Call or visit to ensure they have what they need to stay warm and healthy. Things to check include:
- Are they staying warm? Is their heating system working properly and set at reasonable temperature? Are they using portable heaters safely? Do they have an adequate supply of fuel, if appropriate?
- Do they need medical attention? Do they have symptoms of cold-related illness (e.g., shivering, exhaustion, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech or white/grayish skin color)? Do they depend on oxygen? Are they out of or running low on any medications or medical supplies? Have they fallen?
- Do they have an adequate food supply and a safe way to prepare meals? Do they have non-perishable food that can be prepared without electricity? Do they have plenty of clean drinking water?
- Can they get help if they need it? Do they have access to a phone that works, even if the power goes out? Do they know who they will contact if they need assistance?
Remember: Confusion and disorientation can be symptoms of hypothermia, dehydration or stress, and may have nothing to do with the person's age. If someone seems ill, call 9-1-1.
Follow the Ohio Department of Aging on Facebook and Twitter for more cold-weather safety information all winter long. The Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness has information and resources about winter weather at www.weathersafety.ohio.gov.
About ODA - The Ohio Department of Aging works to ensure that Ohio is on the leading edge of innovation in responding to the growing and changing aging population. We work with state agencies, area agencies on aging and other local partners 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, the long-term care ombudsman program, the Golden Buckeye Card and more. Visit www.aging.ohio.gov.
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