Research Finds Nursing Home Disaster Preparedness Inadequate

Disaster Preparedness Plans for Nursing HomesIn both random checks of disaster preparedness plans, and in the results of actual responses during emergencies, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has found that nursing homes leave much to be desired.

An emergency such as a tornado or hurricane requires rapid evacuation of residents in a care facility. Since nursing home residents often suffer from reduced mobility, this need presents a serious challenge. Patients with dementia or other mental impairments are even more difficult to manage in an emergency.

These challenges led the DHS Office of the Inspector General to issue a set of guidelines for emergency preparedness in 2006. Recommendations included:

  • Increased communication between nursing homes and local emergency services.
  • Detailed written plans to meet potential emergencies, from missing residents to fire to natural catastrophes.
  • Extensive training of all staff for emergency preparedness.
  • Evacuation plans for all residents, including access to transportation to effect the evacuation.
  • Regular fire and emergency drills to train staff and residents in emergency procedures.
  • Plans to maintain medical treatment during and after the evacuation or residents.
  • Identifying safe locations for temporary housing of nursing home residents.
  • Staffing policies to ensure an adequate number of staffers in an emergency.

The hurricanes of 2007 to 2010 allowed government investigators to view exactly how well some nursing homes fulfilled those recommendations. Unfortunately, many nursing homes left “wide gaps” between the recommendations and their actual policies and procedures.

Improper emergency plans were linked directly to negative impacts on the physical and mental health of residents. Among the results of these negligent plans were:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Illness and injury from exposure
  • Malnutrition and dehydration
  • Complications due to missed medication or other medical treatment
  • Death and serious illness

Nursing homes nationwide suffer from emergencies like fires, criminal assaults and patient elopement. Among Chicago nursing homes and other facilities across the Midwest, tornado and flood are the most common major natural catastrophes.

Personal safety expert Gavin DeBecker recommends interviewing staff about emergency procedures to ensure the safety of your family. In his book “Protecting the Gift,” he suggests talking to entry-level staff instead of management. How much they know about preparedness and procedure will tell you exactly how ready the staff is for a disaster.

Your family’s safety is the responsibility of the care facility you employ. If they failed to meet standards and recommendations from the government, a nursing home negligence lawsuit may be the only way to hold them accountable.

The above article was prepared by attorney Jonathan Rosenfeld.  Jonathan is the founder of Rosenfeld Injury Lawyers where he represents individuals and families in nursing home neglect and medical malpractice cases. You can learn more about the work that he does by visiting the firm’s website www.rosenfeldinjurylawyers.com.

Sources:
http://oig.hhs.gov/oei/reports/oei-06-06-00020.pdf
http://newoldage.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/05/10/when-disaster-strikes-the-nursing-home/

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One Comment on “Research Finds Nursing Home Disaster Preparedness Inadequate”

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