Older Ohioans and their caregivers should take steps now to prepare for winter’s worst.
“About the only thing you can predict about an Ohio winter is that it will be unpredictable,” says Bonnie K. Burman, director of the Ohio Department of Aging. “As we age, it often becomes harder for us to adapt to extreme and changing weather conditions. That’s why planning ahead and being prepared is so important. Ensuring the safety of Ohio’s most vulnerable residents is our plan, and we ask that you have a plan, too.”
To make sure your aging loved ones are ready for winter, a good idea is to have a plan in place should your loved one be unable to leave home due to weather conditions for at least three days. See the following suggestions for what you need.
- 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 can be opened and prepared easily, water (one gallon per person per day), extra blankets and a first aid kit. Make sure they have access to a phone that will work if the electricity goes out.
- Medications – Keep a backup supply of the medications they take every day (check expiration dates every couple of months and replace if necessary). They should ask their doctors for extra copies of their prescriptions for their 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 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 medical and adaptive equipment in the emergency kit.
- Readiness – Make sure you or your loved ones 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. 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 at home.
- Reasonable Accommodations – Be prepared to quickly explain to rescue personnel how to move safely and rapidly (e.g., “take my oxygen tank,” “get my insulin from the refrigerator”).
Courtesy of the Ohio Department of Aging and the Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness. This article was adapted from “Emergency Management Be Prepared Kit,” available at 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 aging.ohio.gov for local contacts.
Follow the Ohio Department of Aging on Facebook or Twitter all winter long for periodic updates from the department or other state agencies about changing weather conditions, emergencies and resources.
The Ohio Committee for Severe Weather Awareness has information and resources about winter weather at weathersafety.ohio.gov.