Nursing Home Patients Missing After Hurricane

Posted on Dec 10, 2012

Does your North Carolina nursing home have an emergency plan for storm preparedness? Besides cost, safety and a clean license with the state, families may neglect to look for a nursing home that has a clearly defined strategy for storm response.

Our NC nursing home abuse lawyers in Raleigh, Fayetteville and Dunn heard about negligent nursing homes in the Northeast after Hurricane Sandy hit, but in the South, nursing homes in coastal NC and inland areas are vulnerable to hurricanes, tornadoes, flooding and ice storms. The elderly rely on dedicated nursing home staff for their everyday needs. If a storm hits, without the right inventory of medications, a reliable alternative power supply, and a clear evacuation strategy, unprepared NC nursing homes could put their elderly residents in a life-threatening situation.

Now, nursing home residents in the North are missing after Hurricane Sandy. The missing residents would have remained in safe care if the nursing home had not failed to ensure the safety of its residents and effectively prepared for the storm. Because the nursing home’s windows were not braced for the winds, debris broke windows. As sea levels rose, waves crashed through the open windows. Sea water filled the lower level, ruining the only generator, which was kept on the first floor. Although required by state law, additional emergency staff arrangements were not made. The nursing home also failed to stock extra food, organize patient records in case of an evacuation, and make extra orders of medications.

The nursing home’s negligence caused patients to be left in unheated conditions without food, water or necessary medications. Emergency personnel moved the patients to safe shelters; however, the nursing home’s carelessness resulted in the patients being transferred without their records or ID. As the holidays approach and weeks have passed since Hurricane Sandy hit, the nursing home residents still have not been reunited with their family and family members are unable to locate their loved ones.

Many senior citizens rely on daily prescriptions to help maintain their health; even one missed dose could be dangerous. Nursing homes can prevent missed dosages during storms by establishing a sufficient inventory well in advance of a storm and storing medications in watertight containers. It is “better to be safe than sorry” in situations like this, and nursing homes have a responsibility to keep their residents safe. Preparing patients for an evacuation, even if an emergency transfer is unnecessary, will help ensure residents’ safety should a true emergency take place.

North Carolina nursing home abuse lawyers at Brent Adams & Associates have also prepared tips for families to use before they choose a NC nursing home for their aging relatives.

Also, not every state has its own rating system for nursing homes, but North Carolina does. Read more here.

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