Older Ohioans at increased risk for complications from extreme cold PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sentinel-Tribune Staff   
Friday, 31 January 2014 10:15
COLUMBUS - The winter of 2014 has brought to Ohio colder temperatures and wind chills than we've seen in many years - and how a shortage of propane and natural gas.
The Ohio Department of Aging reminds all Ohioans that our bodies react differently to extreme conditions as we age. Among other factors, older adults are at higher risk from extreme cold because they tend to lose body heat more quickly and are more likely to take medications that affect their ability to regulate body temperature. As a result, they are at higher risk for complications from hypothermia, frostbite and other cold-weather illnesses and injuries.
When the mercury plunges, call or visit older friends, neighbors and loved ones 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)? Are they out of or running low on any medications or medical supplies?
• 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?
How to assist an older adult who appears to need help:
• Always treat adults like adults.
• Be friendly, calm and reassuring. Make eye contact, speak slowly and distinctly.
• Use positive language. Instead of: "Don't go there," say: "Let's go here."
• Avoid "challenging" questions. Instead of: "Do you know where you are?" say: "I'm glad I got to visit you in your home today. Can I help you with something?"
Remember: Confusion and disorientation can be symptoms of hypothermia, dehydration or stress, and may have nothing to do with the person's age.

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