Is your loved one's nursing home fully prepared for a natural disaster?
According to a recently released report form the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the answer to this question is likely to be a resounding; "No."
An in-depth investigation into 24 nursing homes in some of the nation's most disaster-prone areas has concluded that many facilities would be in serious trouble if a twister or flood were to come knocking on their door.
All appears well, at first glance—92 percent of nursing homes in America meet the emergency planning regulations set forth by the government.
The problem, according to the federal investigators, is that these guidelines are too loose and don't include detailed information on how to develop an air-tight emergency plan.
The data they collected shows just how dangerous this oversight can be. Out of 24 nursing home emergency preparedness plans:
- 23 failed to outline how to respond to the sudden illness or death of a resident while undergoing an evacuation.
- Seven left no instruction for how to label and identify residents during an evacuation, while 15 had no process for preserving a patient's list of medications.
- Even in the event that a resident's medications were known, 22 plans neglected to mention how those prescriptions would be transported in the event of an evacuation.
The list of startling statistics goes on, finding most homes wanting in a number of key safety areas, including: proper access to food and clean water in the event of an evacuation. Some facilities even admitted to briefly losing multiple residents during previous disasters.
The study authors' final conclusion was that more specific guidelines are needed to help keep the elderly who rely on nursing home care safe.
From tornadoes and wildfires to hurricanes and mudslides, the summer months often bring some of the most severe weather events of the entire year.
And, while this report has served as a much-needed wake-up call for government officials and nursing home staffs, new regulations for emergency preparedness are likely months away from being implemented. Which means that seniors who need nursing home care now could be at risk if disaster strikes the nursing home where they're staying.
While it may not always be possible, it's helpful for a caregiver to do as much digging as they can into a particular facility before they let their elderly loved one stay there.
AgingCare.com has compiled a list of questions that caregivers should ask when they are looking for a long-term care facility with a solid disaster plan.