You likely did a lot of research before you chose a nursing home or other residential care facility for your loved one. It seems like a well-run place and the staff all seem to be caring and attentive. But are they prepared to care for your loved one if a severe weather event or natural disaster occurs?
Sadly, as we’ve seen too often in recent years, some facilities who care for vulnerable seniors have not been prepared to move them to a safe place when a catastrophic event occurs. In some cases, they’ve been moved and essentially dumped in unsafe conditions because there were no other nursing homes or nearby hospitals prepared to take them. In at least one case, staff members fled as a wildfire approached, leaving residents to fend for themselves.
Fortunately, states have taken steps to ensure that nursing homes have plans in place to care for their residents or move them to someplace that can if severe weather or other natural disaster or emergency strikes. However, it’s still crucial to make sure your loved one’s facility is prepared.
What questions should you ask?
Whether you’re evaluating several different nursing homes for a family member or a loved one is already in a residential facility, you have a right to get answers to the following:
- Do they regularly do emergency drills with staff and ensure that new staff members know the procedures?
- What backup equipment do they have if they lose electricity that’s needed for respiratory, monitoring and other equipment, including heat or air conditioning?
- Where will residents be taken if they can’t remain in the facility, and how will they be transported?
- Do they immediately contact local law enforcement and first responders?
- How can loved ones (especially those who don’t live nearby) contact them in an emergency if their phones aren’t working?
The facility should have an emergency plan, an evacuation plan and a copy of their latest state emergency preparedness inspection results. You have a right to see and/or get a copy of all of those.
If your loved one has been harmed because their nursing home or other care facility wasn’t prepared for an emergency, you have a right to explore your options for compensation and justice. Having legal guidance is key.