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Ensure older adults are healthy, safe and warm during this week's extreme cold temperatures

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Posted at 3:53 PM, Jan 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-28 15:53:32-05

CLEVELAND — With extremely cold temperatures expected across the state this week, the Ohio Department of Aging has a reminder for residents to treat these extreme temperatures as you would a coming snow or ice storm: be prepared and check on older loved ones and neighbors before, during and after the temperatures drop.

“Extremely cold temperatures can take a physical toll on all of us, but also threaten important parts of community and home infrastructure that we and our older loved ones rely upon to stay safe and comfortable in our homes,” said Ursel McElroy, director of the department. “Take some time before the temperature drops to ensure you are ready for the worst and have a plan in place should your health be affected, or it becomes unsafe to stay in your home.”

Body changes and prescription medications can make older adults more susceptible to the ravages of bitter cold temperatures, the department states.

Prolonged cold conditions like those expected this week raise the risk of freezing home plumbing, water main breaks, vehicle failure, transportation interruptions, power outages, heating system failures and more.

The Department of Aging provided the following tips to help you prepare for the cold weather:

· Assemble an emergency kit that includes a battery-operated radio, a flashlight and extra batteries, extra blankets and warm clothing, food that you can open and prepare easily and plenty of clean drinking water (at least one gallon per person per day), in case water supply lines are compromised.

· Open cabinet doors under sinks on exterior walls of your home and turn faucets to a slow drip to help prevent pipes from freezing. Place rolled-up towels or blankets around drafty windows and doors to help keep the cold air outside and the warm air inside.

· Know where the main valves and switches are for gas, water and electricity and ensure you or someone you trust can operate them should you need to shut them off.

· If you must use portable space heaters to warm your home, check that yours has been tested and certified to the latest safety standards. Keep heat sources at least three feet from combustible items, like papers, blankets and curtains. Never leave a fireplace or portable heater unattended; turn off heaters and extinguish flames when you leave the room or go to bed. Never use appliances that weren’t designed to heat your home, such as cooking stoves and ovens, for that purpose.

· Have a plan for a safe, warm place to go, and a way to get there, if it becomes unsafe to stay in your home.

The department advises residents to call or visit older loved ones and neighbors throughout the week to ensure they are safe, warm and healthy.

Department officials provided these questions that you should be asking as you check in on elderly adults:

· Is the temperature in their home comfortable? Do they have safe means to keep it that way if outdoor temperatures remain frigid?

· Do they need medical attention? Do they appear alert and aware? Have they fallen? Are they staying warm enough? Are they taking their medications as prescribed?

· Do they have safe food and water? Are they eating and drinking regularly?

· Whom will they call if they need help? Do they have access to a phone that will work without power or landline service?

The Department of Aging noted that Ohioans who live in nursing homes can be at increased risk from severe winter weather. Officials recommended that family members and concerned friends call loved one's nursing homes to check conditions there and ask how the facility is staffed.

Visit www.aging.ohio.gov/safeathome [aging.ohio.gov] for additional tips and resources to prepare for severe weather and other emergencies.

If you or an older adult become ill or injured during a storm, or it becomes unsafe to stay in a home for any reason, call 911 for emergency assistance.

You can find an updated list of warming centers here.