As a winter storm bears down on Ohio, remember to check on your older neighbors and loved ones

A neighbor checks on another.
Before the winter storm hits, make a plan to check on your older neighbors and loved ones. [Daisy Daisy / Shutterstock]

Be prepared, make a plan, and check on your older neighbors and loved ones.

That’s the message from the Ohio Department of Aging as a multi-day winter storm sweeps into the state promising to dump more than a foot of snow on some parts of Northeast Ohio.

The agency recommends the following as Ohioans hunker down to ride out the storm:

Prepare an emergency kit and plan. Your kit should include a battery-operated radio, flashlight and extra batteries, food you can open and prepare easily without electricity, one gallon of fresh water per person, per day, a first aid kit and a backup supply of medications, spare glasses, hearing aid batteries, and alternatives to assistive and medical equipment that won’t work without electricity, and a whistle, loud horn, or bell that you can use to help first responders find you. Also, collect the names and phone numbers of people you can call for help if you need it and make a plan for where you will go if it is unsafe to stay at home and how to get there.

Caregivers should also plan for the possibility that they won’t be able to physically be with their loved ones or that their loved ones may have to leave home for their own safety. If you care for someone, you should make sure you know where emergency shelters are and make a plan for getting there, especially if you don’t feel safe driving. ODH recommends you also identify a trusted neighbor or someone who lives nearby who can back you up in case of a crisis. You should update that person on your loved one’s condition and how to communicate with them. Also, store a recent photo and copies of your loved one’s medical documents on your phone in case you have to share them with emergency responders.

Neighbors should plan to check on each other – and especially on older neighbors. Besides the possibility of being lifesaving, this makes people feel connected to their community and remembered, ODH said. Check their home to make sure the temperature is comfortable, their heating is safe, there is no damage to the structure and the walkways are clear of snow and ice. Check that they are alert and aware and make sure they haven’t fallen and are taking their medication. Also, confirm they have enough food and water and that they’re able to do what they need to do. Do they have someone they can call in case of an emergency? It's not nosey to find out. 

You can check on your older neighbors and loved ones via phone, text, or video call. But if you do go to their homes, ODH officials suggest you wear a face mask and wash your hands.

The time to make a plan and set aside supplies is before the storm hits, said Craig Thomas, senior director of clinical services of the Western Reserve Area Agency on Aging. That means picking up prescription refills and food staples, but it also means taking time to talk through details of what to do in an emergency like calling 911.

Thomas also recommends setting up regular check-in times so you and your loved one can stay in regular contact. If you live far away from your loved one, try to establish a local contact so you can have an additional source of communication. 

And in the days after the storm, be cognizant of whom you do not see out in your neighborhood, he said. It could be a sign of trouble. 

The storm also provides a good reason to reach out to others in your neighborhood. 

"In the present day many do not even know the names of your neighbors," Thomas said. "As the snow falls evenly on us all, why not take the time going to introduce yourself and let them know we are all in this winter together;  and knowing Ohio, it is not over yet."

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