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Hurricane Issac Poses Unpredictable Dangers to Nursing Home Residents


When you hear about a hurricane the first things that probably come to mind are palm trees whipping in the wind and torrential downpour. You might think of people needing to evacuate, but you probably don’t think about how difficult that might be for someone unable to mobilize without the help of others. As hurricane Issac whipped across the Southern United States during the last week of August 2012, the difficulties of evacuating senior citizens came to light.

Senior citizens and other sickly individuals housed in hospitals, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities are extra vulnerable to natural disasters. Particularly for senior citizens who have a hard time getting around, a strong storm can pose a big problem. Nursing homes in the Louisiana coastal region were faced with the challenge of evacuation during the last week of August 2012.

The decision whether or not to evacuate is a tough call because moving fragile patients is costly, time consuming, and risky for their health. With all the associated risks nursing home officials are forced to think long and hard about if evacuation is really the best option. The decision is of course made even harder by the fact that you could go through all the trouble of evacuating only to discover that the storm never hit the facility very hard. Alternatively of course, you could decide not to evacuate and the facility could end up under thirteen feet of water like some Louisiana towns did after Issac rolled through.

When faced by the daunting natural forces of hurricane Issac, some Louisiana homes made the decision based on the fact that their facility’s emergency mechanisms were not very sophisticated. For example, some homes were forced to move residents out because the facility was not equipped with generators capable of powering back-up air conditioning. Senior citizens are vulnerable heat because their bodies are less able to cope with temperature fluctuations. The risk of patients suffering from heat stroke was too great if the storm brought devastating force.

Other homes decided to participate in partial evacuations taking the most fragile residents first. Fragile residents are those whose health conditions are so unstable that they require transport via an ambulance. These residents were moved to emergency shelter locations inland and away from the most threatening natural elements.

The fact that some residents require extensive care leads to a secondary danger caused by potential evacuations. Even if an evacuation is wisely executed residents health may still be jeopardized if the relocation costs them a reduction in the standard of care they generally receive. Less attentive care in an emergency location is obviously possible for many reasons.

Outside of the normal care facility nurses and care takers may feel frazzled or stressed. Instead of following a care ritual they know carefully, many treatment procedures must be done spontaneously and in makeshift ways. Care takers may not have access to full patient medical charts they normally reference when deciding how to treat certain symptoms. Nurses may also have limited access to the sorts of tools and supplies they would usually use in the course of treatment.

In addition to not having access to the normal range of equipment and records, caretakers may also be faced with more needy patients. Relocation could cause patients symptoms to flare or worsen. And exposure to new environments may expose the patients to greater risks of contracting new illnesses.

Although there is really nothing that can be done to prevent evacuation in light of a natural disaster, you can still do a lot to make sure you or a loved one is receiving adequate care during the emergency. Even if you or a loved one is not in an evacuation situation, you can provide a helping hand to those who are.

During evacuations of a nursing home in Belle Chasse, Louisiana the hallways were full of people of all ages lending a helping hand. According to the Huffington Post, a local twelve year old, whose relatives worked at the home, lent a helping hand because he said he would want someone to do the same for him in the future. He went up and down the halls making sure the residents were all wearing name tags identifying them by name and date of birth.

If you cannot physically be there to help out, you can still watch over your loved ones from afar. One of the best ways to prevent nursing home abuse and neglect is simply to check in early and often. Talk to your loved one, ask about the quality of care they are receiving, and alert someone if something seems wrong. Safety and well-being are not things to be taken lightly, if you or a loved one has been injured while living in a nursing home or care facility please contact our experienced nursing home attorneys today so we can help you to receive maximum compensation for your injuries.

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