Older Residents at Risk During Extreme Cold

Older adults need to be careful as forecasters predict continued frigid temperatures and very cold wind chills across the Ohio Valley.

Current temperatures are well below average for this time of year, with single-digit lows and negative wind-chill readings.

“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, interim director of the Ohio Department of Aging. “Extremely cold temperatures equal severe weather, and we ask (everyone) to check on older loved ones, neighbors and friends during this and other severe weather.”

The Department of Aging encourages all residents to check on older loved ones, friends and neighbors before, during and after severe winter conditions, to ensure they are OK and have the resources they need. Those resources include safe food and water, a safe means to heat their homes and access to a phone that will work without power or landline service.

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 residents should have a winter preparedness plan that enables them to remain in place for three days if they become unable to leave their homes because of 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, one gallon per person per day of water, extra blankets and a first aid kit.

Older adults may have a few additional considerations:

∫ A backup supply of daily medicines and the means to store them properly;

∫ Ready access to medical equipment; assistive devices such as canes, walkers, wheelchairs, lifts and oxygen tanks; as well as spare batteries and non-powered options;

∫ A safe place to go if it becomes unsafe to stay at home, and a plan for getting there; and

∫ Instructions for rescue personnel to help residents relocate safely and quickly in an emergency.

Preparation should include a plan for safely keeping the temperature in the home comfortable. Use only 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 a home for that purpose.

Snow and freezing rain also increases the risk of a potentially life-changing fall for older people. Anyone who must go out in wintry conditions should wear boots or shoes that fit properly and have good traction.

Bundle up to stay warm, but make sure you can see and move freely. Allow extra time for travel and try to walk only on surfaces that have been cleared and treated for ice and snow.

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. An area agency can also help identify resources, such as energy assistance, chore service and minor home repairs that can help older adults stay warm and safe this winter.

To be connected to the agency, call 1-866-243-5678. More emergency preparedness advice and resources are available on the department’s website, aging.ohio.gov/safeathome.