The devastation caused by Hurricane Ida last August showed us once again that some Louisiana nursing homes are woefully unprepared to care for their residents in a disaster. The Louisiana Department of Health (DOH) revoked the licenses of seven facilities in the southeastern part of the state that moved residents to a warehouse as the hurricane neared landfall.
Seven of the over 800 residents who were evacuated to the warehouse died. A lawsuit by the families called the conditions “horrific and inhumane.”
Sadly, this wasn’t an isolated incident. Nursing home residents across the country have been evacuated to places that were unprepared to handle them or just plain unsafe. In some cases, they have been abandoned in their nursing homes by staff who left them behind while they got out.
Nursing homes have a responsibility to their residents to be prepared to get them to safety in a disaster that affects the entire area as well as one that may affect only the facility, like a building fire or electrical outage. Unfortunately, too many are not prepared.
How to determine whether a nursing home can handle an emergency
Whether you’re looking at nursing homes for a family member or a loved one who is already in one, you can and should ask as many questions as you need to determine their readiness. Here are just a few things you should inquire about:
- Does the facility have an evacuation plan? Is there a plan to get residents out safely and transferred to someplace equipped to care for them?
- Do they regularly do emergency drills with staff members?
- Do they have backup generators to power medical equipment if the electricity goes out for an extended period?
- When was their most recent emergency preparedness inspection by the state authorities?
- What’s their protocol for calling or taking calls from family members checking on loved ones?
Don’t just accept verbal reassurances. Get copies of plans and inspections. Find out what they did during the last storm or another emergency.
If you’re not satisfied with the answers you’re getting, that can be a red flag. You may want to contact the county’s long-term care ombudsman to find out more about the facility and any record of issues. If your loved one has already suffered harm or worse, find out what your legal options are for seeking justice and compensation.