COLUMBUS — The winter has brought to Ohio colder temperatures and wind chills than in previous years, and the Ohio Department of Aging is reminding Ohioans that people’s bodies react differently to extreme conditions as they age.
Among other factors, older adults are at higher risk from extreme cold because they tend to lose body heat quicker and are more likely to take medications that affect their ability to regulate body temperature, according to a press release from the department.
As a result, older Ohioans are at higher risk for complications from hypothermia, frostbite and other cold-weather illnesses and injuries.
When temperatures plunge, the department asks area residents to call or visit older friends, neighbors and loved ones to ensure they have what they need to stay warm and healthy. The following are factors to check:
— Are they staying warm? Is their heating system working properly and set at a reasonable temperature and 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, such as shivering, exhaustion, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech or white or grayish skin color? Do they depend on oxygen and 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?
The Ohio Department of Aging provided several tips to assist older adults who may need help, including always treating adults like adults; being friendly, calm and reassuring; making eye contact, speaking slowly and distinctly; avoiding challenging questions; asking open-ended questions; and redirecting instead of correcting them.
Confusion and disorientation can be symptoms of hypothermia, dehydration or stress, the release said, and may have nothing to do with a person’s age. If someone seems ill, call 911, the department advises.
Ohio’s area agencies on aging provide services and link people to local resources for food, warming centers and other help. For more information, contact the Wyandot County Council on Aging at 419-294-5733 or the Ohio Department of Aging at 866-243-5678 or www.aging.ohio.gov.