From extreme temperatures and dangerous outdoor conditions to a particularly active flu season, this has been a tough winter so far. Physical changes, isolation and other factors can make older adults more susceptible to weather’s wrath, so it’s important to be prepared and check in on each other regularly. Protect yourself from falls Falls are the leading cause of injury-related ER visits, hospitalizations and deaths for older Ohioans. However, falling is not a normal part of aging, and most falls can be prevented, even in an Ohio winter. Ask your doctor or physical therapist about indoor exercises to maintain strength and balance. Dress warmly, but avoid bulky coats, gloves and other clothing that can restrict movement. Wear boots and shoes that fit properly and have soles with good traction. Keep shoes, canes and walkers dry and free of snow, ice, dirt and mud. Keep sidewalks and stairs outside your home clean of ice, snow, mud and debris. Carry a small bag or shaker of rock salt, sand or kitty litter in your pocket or purse for traction on unexpectedly icy paths. Improve lighting around your home with extra lamps and night lights, especially around doorways and stairs. Visit the STEADY U Ohio website ( www.steadyu.ohio.gov ) for more falls prevention tips. Protect yourself and your loved ones from the flu Flu is a highly contagious respiratory disease caused by a virus. It can cause mild to severe illness and, in some cases, can lead to death. For many reasons, older adults are more likely than younger adults to experience the flu and its complications. There is still plenty of time to benefit from a flu shot, and plenty of vaccine available. Ask about special high-dose vaccines specifically for older adults. Here are more ways to safeguard yourself and loved ones from the flu. Wash your hands frequently using soap and warm water Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you can’t wash your hands. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with your hands. Avoid contact with people who may have the flu, as well as surfaces they may have touched. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Get plenty of sleep, manage stress and be as physically active as is appropriate for you. Drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritional foods. Visit the Ohio Department of Health’s flu website ( www.flu.ohio.gov ) for information and resources to help you fight the flu. Check on your neighbors Before, during and after severe winter weather, check in on older loved ones, friends and neighbors to ensure that they have the resources they need to remain safe and healthy. Regular visits, even when the weather is nice, can help prevent feelings of isolation and depression, which can be common for older adults during the winter months. Here are some things to ask about when you visit. Do they need medical attention? Have they fallen? Are they staying warm enough? Are they taking their medicines as prescribed? Do they have safe food and water? Are they eating and drinking regularly? Is the temperature in their home comfortable? Do they have safe means to heat the home if temperatures continue to fall? Whom will they call if they need help? Do they have access to a phone that will work without power or landline service? Your area agency on aging can help identify resources, such as energy assistance, chore service and minor home repairs that can help you stay warm and safe this winter. Visit the Ohio Department of Aging’s website ( www.aging.ohio.gov ) for contacts or call 1-866-243-5678 to be connected to the agency serving your community. Follow the Ohio Department of Aging on Facebook and Twitter for more winter safety information and resources all winter long. About ODA – The Ohio Department of Aging works to ensure that our elders are respected as vital members of society who continue to grow, thrive and contribute. We collaborate with state agencies and community partners, including area agencies on aging, to help integrate aging needs into local plans and ensure that aging Ohioans have access to a wide array of high-quality services and supports that are person-centered in policy and practice. Our programs include the PASSPORT Medicaid waiver, caregiver support, the long-term care ombudsman program, the Golden Buckeye Card and more. Visit www.aging.ohio.gov.