Caring for Seniors in an Emergency

Recent natural disasters have highlighted the need for more comprehensive emergency and evacuation plans for nursing home facilities. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Marie each caused significant property damage, resulted in loss of life, and left many seniors stranded for days without electricity, air conditioning, sufficient access to medications and doctors, no way to contact family members, and rapidly dwindling food and water reserves.

Federal regulations on nursing home emergency preparedness were issued in September of 2016 and should be fully implemented by November of this year. The new regulations sound fairly comprehensive. They address things such as an emergency plan & procedures, communications, training and back-up power systems. The problem is that the new regulations are vague and give no specific guidance or standards by which these new procedures should be evaluated. Critics of the new regulations fear that the lack of specificity in Federal guidelines will lead to inconsistencies in planning and implementation.

Luckily for those of us that live in the Midwest, we have little to fear from hurricanes. However, severe snow storms, summer heat waves and tornadoes have all been known to effectively trap seniors in nursing facilities or in their homes. As we head into winter we urge our clients to check in with elderly clients often. If the senior lives in a nursing home, we suggest the family inquire after emergency procedures and to establish a reliable means of communication with the senior such as a personal cell phone. For those seniors living at home, we suggest families procure sufficient water and non-perishable foods to meet the senior’s needs during extender periods of extreme cold or heavy snows. We also suggest making advanced arrangements for snow removal.

We are also encouraging all of our clients that have loved ones in nursing facilities to inquire as to how the facility plans to comply with the new Federal emergency regulations requirements. Nursing home administrators have varying responsibilities and contingency planning can fall by the wayside. Involved family can make a huge difference in a senior’s nursing home experience.

If you fee that the needs of a senior are not being met or your family requires assistance advocating for a senior with a nursing home, contact our elder law attorney, Nicholas A. Beis at n.beis@wilsonwilsonllc.com or call our office at (708) 482-7090 to schedule a consultation.

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