It used to be that when people had loved ones in a nursing home or other residential care facility, they assumed they would be safe if a natural disaster or other emergency occurred. Unfortunately, we’ve all seen heartbreaking cases throughout the country where nursing homes and their staffs were woefully unprepared and negligent. Some residents died as a result, while others suffered serious harm – not to mention trauma.
Besides extreme weather and natural disasters, nursing homes need to be prepared for any emergency that may require safe evacuation and relocation of residents. They also need to have back-up systems in place in case electricity goes out – as can happen during a severe snowstorm.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions
Whether you already have a loved on in a nursing home or you’re looking for the best place for them, it’s crucial to ask about – and see evidence of – their emergency plan. Even if you live nearby, don’t assume that you’ll be able to get to the facility to pick up your loved one in an area-wide weather event or fire.
Besides asking about and getting a copy of their emergency plan, here are a few other things you should ask the management team at the facility:
- Do they do emergency drills with staff, and are new employees trained on emergency procedures?
- What is their evacuation plan if residents have to be moved? Will they be taken to a hospital or other facility where medical care is accessible? Is there an alternate location if the first one isn’t available?
- What back-up systems do they have in case the electricity goes out to keep respirators and other necessary equipment working and heat or air conditioning working?
- What local authorities do they immediately contact for assistance?
- Is there an emergency contact number for families to check on their loved one? Is there an automatic notification system for families (via text or email)?
If you’re not satisfied with the answers you get to these and other questions and the information you receive about emergency preparedness at your loved one’s facility, contact your state’s long-term care (LTC) ombudsman. If your loved one has already suffered harm due to nursing home negligence, find out what your legal options are for seeking justice and compensation.