Oldest residents' safety more vulnerable during disasters


Like clockwork, stories of suffering by the oldest residents in the line of hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and other natural disasters seem to follow. Regulations dictate nursing homes and other facilities must have preparation plans in place, but the realities of how older Americans cope with a storm go beyond any piece of paper. The issue burst to the forefront again Wednesday with news of eight deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Florida, where workers say Hurricane Irma caused the air conditioning to fail, and they struggled to keep residents cool with fans, cold towels and ice.

A look at the issues at play in keeping the oldest safe in the line of disaster:

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RISKS RISE FOR MOST VULNERABLE RESIDENTS

Time and again, natural disasters have claimed residents of nursing homes and other senior communities. The risks rise in a state like Florida, which has the highest proportion of people 65 and older of any state, one in five of its residents.

Hurricane Andrew caused a diaspora of nursing home residents, and family members frantically searched to locate their elderly relatives. Hurricane Katrina was followed by harrowing tales from St. Rita’s nursing home, where dozens died. And Hurricane Harvey washed through La Vita Bella assisted living facility, and brought a viral photo of elderly women sitting in deep floodwaters while they awaited rescue.

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