Nursing home patients deserve safety in case of natural disaster

Unfortunately, there are things in life that are completely out of our control. We usually can’t control that we or a loved one gets ill and, therefore, needs around-the-clock care from a nursing home facility. By putting them in such a facility, however, it is a means to try to take control over a patient’s safety.

For the most part, medical staff can be depended upon to care for nursing home residents. They feed, bathe, medicate and provide other such necessary assistance to elderly or otherwise in-need patients. A recent USA Today report suggests that resident neglect is happening during non-everyday circumstances: during natural disasters.

Just like our loved one’s health, we also cannot control what the weather decides to do. What is in our power is to try our best to stay out of harm’s way, protect ourselves and our homes. But what does nursing home staff do to protect their patients whom they are paid to protect when disaster strikes?

The Health and Human Services Department studied emergency plans and preparation among various nursing home facilities across the country where natural disasters most often strike and found some striking news. Generally, facilities are dangerously unprepared to handle patients during an emergency. That negligence to prepare, train and follow through with emergency procedures can lead to the preventable deaths and injuries of facility residents.

In Hurricane Katrina, for example, sources report that 35 patients in a nursing home died within the facility. Criminal charges resulted from the losses but did not lead to conviction. Despite that legal outcome, it is still obvious that more needs to be done to try to save in-need patients from natural disasters.

The chief of Medicare recognizes that need and reportedly plans to put together federal guidelines that all licensed homes must adhere to with regards to emergency planning for natural disasters. If this is a safety issue that you are worried about for yourself or for a loved one, ask nursing home staff about their emergency preparation.

Source: USA Today, “Big gaps found in nursing homes’ disaster plans,” Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, April 17, 2012



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