One of the most tragic stories to emerge from the wreckage was the way that many nursing homes ignored the plentiful warnings about the dangers of the storm, and the nursing home residents who died as a result. Only 21 out of roughly 60 nursing homes evacuated in the face of the storm, and the residents of the nursing homes who stayed behind paid the price.
Katrina hit in 2005. In April, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a study entitled: Nursing Home Emergency Preparedness and Response During Disasters: 2007-2010. The study examined 24 nursing homes that experienced disasters (floods, wildfires, hurricanes) during 2007-2010 as well as surveyed data from federal inspections.
The results of the study aren’t good. While most nursing homes have a document they call an emergency plan, anyone attempting to use it in an emergency is most likely going to run into a host of problems. The Centers For Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) developed a checklist to evaluate emergency preparedness. Most nursing homes have completed less than half of the checklist tasks. Not a single nursing home completed all of the checklist tasks.
Some of the problems the nursing homes faced during emergencies were easily predictable. For example, staff frequently abandoned their shifts during emergencies to take care of their own families. Stockpiles of food and water were insufficient, and emergency generators failed to function or lacked fuel.
If you have a loved one in a nursing home, be certain to ask to see the emergency plans they have in place. Waiting until the emergency happens to ask questions can be far too late.
At my law firm, we have experience with cases involving injuries and nursing home neglect. If you have a loved one who was injured because a nursing home was unprepared to deal with a crisis, we can help you decide what’s best for your family. We offer a free and confidential evaluation to anyone who has been injured or neglected in an Illinois nursing home, and we would welcome the chance to speak to you.