Florida’s nursing homes must be prepared for Hurricane Season!
Why are Florida’s nursing homes liable?
Floridians as a whole became complacent in the wake of 2017’s deadly Hurricane Irma when she struck our state with a vengeance at the last minute. South Florida went without power for days, going into complete shock that this could happen to us. The state of Florida has since recovered, our lives went back to normal, and many neighborhoods benefitted from strengthened and repaired infrastructure following the storm. However, there is still a sense of fear in all of us.
Why are Florida’s senior citizens being overlooked?
For over a decade South Florida hadn’t experienced a significant weather threat and this left us in a state of complacency. Prior to Irma, Wilma was the last storm to wreak havoc on South Floridians lives and cause damage to property. With the chaotic 2017 hurricane season, we received the reminder we must be accountable for our safety. We must be especially conscious of providing assistance and preparation for those who help themselves. The elderly are a population of Florida’s citizens that require this assistance the most.
Now, facing Hurricane Dorian, we are doing our due diligence not to allow complacency to occur a second time.
While many of us are preparing, there are still many places in South Florida that are neglecting their vulnerable populations. Residences such as nursing homes fail to upgrade their backup generators to provide better care. This leaves some of the most vulnerable demographics of our population at-risk. Elderly, children, and the disabled among them.
Florida’s seniors travel south for comfort
Florida has an extremely large population of senior citizens because of our (most of the time!) comfortable weather. Senior citizens find rest and relaxation living out their golden years in sunny Florida minutes away from the beach. However, should they become ill, unable to care for themselves, and require more care than a family member can give them, a nursing home may be the safest place for them to be looked after.
Not every nursing facility is created equally
Unfortunately, not every nursing facility is created equally, and some have failed to protect this vulnerable population from coming to serious harm (and even passing away) during natural disasters such as Hurricane Irma. To better inform senior citizens and their loved ones of what to look for when checking your elderly family member into a nursing home, Shaked Law Firm’s Law Resource has compiled a go-to list of everything you need to know not only to keep children, disabled, and elderly family members safe during Hurricane Season, but year-round.
Why is elder care different in Florida?
When it comes to elder care, the needs of senior citizens differ from those of the general population. For example, while most of us drink when we’re thirsty and can maintain our health on the recommended 8-glasses-per-day rule, the elderly have specific hydration needs that must be looked after. This need can be more or less, depending on health conditions that may be exacerbated by excess fluids or lack of fluids (dehydration). Aside from dehydration or excess fluid intake, the elderly have other needs that are not generally found in the younger population.
- Dietary considerations: the elderly have specific dietary needs. Meals should be at the same time each day. This is to maintain or improve health and, to provide a sense of routine. This is especially important for those who show early signs of Alzheimer’s or Dementia. These dietary needs are meant to improve brain function, bone health, liver, heart, and kidney function, as well as provide adequate vitamins such as C, B, D, and A. As we age, our dietary needs change with us. Nursing homes must do their due diligence to provide residents with meals that meet their specific needs.
- Physical activity and mental stimulation: whether a senior citizen is wheelchair-bound or can still move around and enjoy a more active lifestyle, ensuring that the elderly have enough physical activity and mental stimulation is equally as important as the dietary and medical considerations that must be made. Providing for a senior’s physical activity can mean working with a physical and occupational therapist, swimming with the assistance of a nurse or CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant), or engaging in activities such as card games, bingo or checkers to keep the mind active.
Compassion should never be an afterthought
A note of compassion: Some senior citizens suffer depression or anxiety, and may refuse to get out of bed. This is especially true if they’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia in which anxiety, depression, and overwhelming feelings of dread are common. It’s important for family members and nursing home staff to engage the elderly person as much as possible to provide mental stimulation and bring joy to their life. Those with Alzheimer’s can have prolonged, healthier lives when engaged in social activities that provide mental stimulation to keep the brain healthy.
Take necessary precautions year-round
The following information is useful year-round in the event of any emergency:
- Backup generators: backup power in the event of a hurricane is a priority when it comes to caring for Florida’s elderly. In September of 2017, more than a dozen of Florida’s senior citizens tragically passed away due to the lack of power in their nursing facility. These deaths were avoidable. While the facility was claiming to provide hospital-level care, they did not follow through on their promises. Many families lost elderly family members due nursing home negligence.
- Clean, filtered water: it should be a priority to provide the elderly with clean, safe drinking water. While the younger population can drink tap water, elderly family members must be more careful. The elderly are more susceptible to bacterial infection and cannot fight off the illnesses they contract from unsafe water. Ensuring there is enough clean water for every resident for a prolonged period of time is non-negotiable.
- Medical care: senior citizens have an entirely different set of medical needs. When it comes to the medical care of senior citizens, there is more to consider. When it comes to elder care, many people are unaware that health conditions can change overnight. Sudden Onset Pneumonia in the elderly can be deadly and medical attention is needed immediately.
What are some common ways to help prevent this dangerous nursing home illness?
- Keep resident rooms clean and free of dust, mold, mildew, and other common allergens that trigger a bacterial infection.
- Maintain a comfortable temperature for the resident and throughout the facility; the elderly are more susceptible to cold weather and frigid air conditioning temperature, therefore it’s necessary to check the thermostat and service it whenever necessary. Provide residents with blankets, sweaters, and hats during colder months (yes, even in Florida!) to prevent Sudden Onset Pneumonia.
- Don’t ignore symptoms! It’s important to pay attention to coughs, sneezes, and other respiratory sounds. This could be a telltale sign of pneumonia.
Nursing homes must have an adequate backup power supply for residents. A/C prevents residents from overheating and dehydrating. In certain situations, a power supply is necessary for ventilators, heart monitors, and other life-sustaining equipment found in nursing homes.
Nursing home staff makes or breaks a facility
In addition to the list above, patience and compassion must also be constantly on hand. These are no less important than clean drinking water and a backup power supply. In fact, being patient with the elderly is something many nursing home employees lose sight of. They may suffer depression after watching elderly residents pass away.
This line of thinking is simply not true! The elderly who find themselves needing the care of a nursing home are often scared and alone. Some rarely receive visitors. This vulnerable part of the population look to their caregivers for patience and compassion. Listen to a story a resident wants to tell to bring a smile. Read to them before bed if their eyesight is failing. These things do as much for the health of a senior citizen as medical care.