When you move a parent or other loved one into a nursing home or other care facility, you assume the management and staff are prepared to keep their residents safe if a disaster strikes. Unfortunately, as we’ve seen in tragic cases – some here in the Southeast – they can be woefully unprepared. In some instances, they have been criminally negligent.
With extreme weather events becoming increasingly frequent, it’s crucial to do some due diligence to help ensure that your loved one’s nursing home is prepared to deal with the effects of severe weather, as well as other emergency situations like structural fires and even active shooters.
You have a right to ask questions – and get answers
Whether you’re still looking at nursing homes for a family member or you have a loved one in a care facility, it’s important to ask about their disaster preparedness. Even if the staff members seem highly attentive, you never know how they’ll react in an emergency – especially if they aren’t properly trained and prepared to handle it.
Here are a few things to inquire about:
- Does the facility have a disaster preparedness plan? (The state requires most facilities to have one.)
- Is every new staff member aware of the plan, and are there regular emergency drills?
- Are there enough back-up generators to power all medical equipment, like respirators, as well as the air conditioning or heating, if power goes out?
- What is their evacuation plan if residents cannot remain in the facility? Do they have arrangements with a nearby hospital? How will residents be transported? Is there an alternate location if it’s not available?
- What is their plan for notifying local first responders?
- Who can family members call if the facility’s phone lines are out?
Don’t assume that just because you (or another family member) lives nearby that you can just come and get your loved one in an emergency. You may be unable to get to them, and you may not be able to continue the care they need. Besides, emergency situations can turn deadly in minutes.
If you don’t like the answers you’re getting from your loved one’s nursing home, you can contact the appropriate state long-term care ombudsman. If your loved one has already been harmed by a nursing home’s negligence or actions in an emergency (or in any other scenario), find out how you can seek justice and compensation for them.