Dangerous Weather and Nursing Home Safety

On behalf of Brown & Crouppen, P.C. posted in Medical Malpractice on Monday, November 12, 2012

When devastating weather strikes, as with Superstorm Sandy, or the Joplin tornado, we all see the large-scale problems; the flooding, buildings destroyed, the power going out, trees and power lines down, and roads made impassable.

What we may not think about, are the effects on the elderly in nursing homes. Nursing homes contain a particularly at-risk population for these types of disasters. Many residents in nursing homes and long-term care facilities are frail and in no position to fend for themselves.

As Katrina demonstrated all too clearly, too many nursing homes have inadequate planning and training to deal with a disaster when it occurs. Some studies report that many nursing homes either don’t have any plans at all, or they have incomplete plans, or plans on paper only, but when examined closely, they don’t have supplies, equipment or training to actually carry them out.

And this is important, as recent stories discussing the aftermath of Sandy point to the lesson of Katrina and other disasters. Seventy-five percent of those who died during Katrina were 60-years-old or older. Studies note that most first responders and emergency workers have little or no training for dealing with the elderly and few gerontologists have any training for disaster recovery.

If you are searching for a nursing home, ask questions before your parents or grandparents become residents. The facility should have a plan for dealing with natural disasters, ranging from tornados, to flooding, to coping with power outages.

In addition to the plan, ask how often staff are trained to implement the operational aspects of the plan. You should ask if they have backup generators, how much medicine and food they have on hand, and do they have transportation they could rely on if they had to evacuate the facility.

Source: Science Daily, “Seniors Particularly Vulnerable in Hurricane Sandy’s Aftermath,” October 31, 2012

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