Kentucky may not seem like an area that would be prone to natural disasters. We are not along a large body of water where hurricanes and tsunamis hit; we are not in an extremely hot dry climate that can be decimated by wildfires; and we do not seem to be on the verge of falling into the ocean from an earthquake like parts of the West Coast. However, natural disasters do occur in Kentucky. Anyone who has lived in Louisville, KY for the last six or seven years has witnessed the effects of a hurricane, a devastating ice storm, numerous thunderstorms with high winds, and even tornadoes, all within the city limits.
Most Kentuckians were able to weather these situations with a little patience, a stay in a hotel room or at a friend’s house for a couple nights, and maybe a call to our insurance company for property damage. But for those who reside in Kentucky nursing homes or assisted living facilities, these natural disasters can be much more dangerous. Nursing homes are required to have a plan in place for how to handle emergencies caused by natural disasters, but investigations conducted by the federal government have found that the majority of these facilities do not have complete, written plans, their staffs have not been trained to handle emergencies, and emergency plans that are in place have never been practiced.
What can you do to help ensure your loved one is kept safe during a natural disaster? The chief executive of LeadingAge, a group comprised of 6,000 organizations that assist the elderly, suggests asking these questions when you visit the nursing home or assisted living facility:
1. What is your disaster plan? Please show me a copy.
2. How often is the staff drilled on your emergency procedures?
3. Are there any chains on the facility’s exit doors? (Facilities housing patients with dementia need to ensure that residents do not wander off. But chains are extremely dangerous during a panicked evacuation and should never be used. Exit doors should have a punch code so staff and administrators can open doors in an emergency. )
4. What is the facility’s supply of medications, food and water? (federal guidelines mandate a seven-day emergency water supply.)
5. Does the facility have back-up generators in case of a power outage? (This is critical for residents on life-maintaining machines.)
6. Where would my loved one most likely be taken in an evacuation situation? Can I have the phone number of that facility?
If the director or administrator is unable to answer these questions, request that changes be made so that the facility is more prepared in the event of an emergency. If the changes aren’t made, consider looking into other another place for your loved one to live that places a stronger emphasis on their residents’ safety.
The weather is unpredictable, but that doesn’t mean a facility that is designed to care for those who are unable to care for themselves should be unprepared for a natural disaster. If your loved one has been injured in a nursing home as a result of this unpreparedness, or some other form of abuse or neglect, Kentucky nursing home attorney Steve Frederick can help you determine what action should be taken.
Why Caregivers Need to Plan for the Worst; nextavenue; Sherri Snelling; October 26, 2012