There’s no part of the country that’s immune from natural disasters. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen in cases from Florida to California, sometimes vulnerable nursing home residents whose protection should be a top priority for those responsible for their care are abandoned by staff who evacuated the facility and left them behind.
In addition to natural disasters like hurricanes and floods, there are other potential emergencies, like a building fire. Nursing homes have a duty to be ready for any disaster or emergency, to have a plan in place and to notify the appropriate authorities and first responders in the area to get needed help as quickly as possible.
Know what questions to ask
If you’re looking at nursing homes for a loved one or already have a family member in a nursing home or other residential facility, it’s crucial to ask questions. For example:
- Do they have an emergency plan? If so, get a copy. Find out how often they do drills with staff. There’s a lot of turnover in many of these facilities. Does everyone know their role in an emergency?
- Are there backup generators? If the electricity is out for an extended period, will the equipment that many residents require to stay alive be able to function? Will the temperature be regulated to keep the facility from getting too hot or too cold?
- Do they have an evacuation plan? If the facility is in danger, is there a plan for getting residents safely out and transferred to a nearby facility that can provide the care they need?
- When was their last state emergency preparedness inspection? Ask to see a copy of the findings and find out what they’ve done to correct any problems.
It’s also wise for you and your family to include your loved one in your own emergency preparedness plan. If their situation were to be unsafe in their nursing home after a disaster, would you be able to take them and provide them the care they need, at least until you can get them to someplace else?
If you’re not happy with the answers you’re getting from a loved one’s nursing home, you can contact the long-term care ombudsman for the appropriate county. If your loved one is harmed or worse because of neglect or lack of preparedness during or after an emergency or disaster, find out what your legal options are.