April 24th, 2012 at 3:12 pm
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Are nursing homes prepared for emergencies?

by Dorian Martin

In the past few months, the US has experienced an active tornado season. Once recently touched down in Arlington, Texas, damaging a nursing home. Having regularly visited my mother when she lived in a similar situation, I was terrified about the fate of the residents. Fortunately, everyone was fine when the “all clear” was sounded.

However, there is cause for worry. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) just released a study that assessed emergency preparedness and responsiveness of Medicare- and Medicaid-certified nursing homes that experienced disasters from 2007-2010. This report was a follow-up to a 2006 report that found that emergency plans were lacking for nursing homes that were in hurricanes.

In this new report, the OIG found that 92 percent of nursing homes met federal regulations for emergency plans while 72 percent met the requirements for emergency training. However, these percentages were slightly lower than rates in 2004 and 2005.

Nursing homes: Are they prepared for an emergency?

The OIG also reviewed emergency plans from 24 nursing homes as part of the study. Six areas were identified as concerns, including:

  1. Staffing. The plans didn’t include ways to ensure sufficient staffing levels in order to provide continuous care for residents during disasters. Furthermore, many of these plans did not include backup plans for staff who couldn’t report to work during the disaster and did not include information about staffing requirements during emergencies.
  2. Resident care. Many of these plans didn’t contain information about each resident’s characteristics (such as Alzheimer’s) and needs (such as feeding tubes and oxygen).
  3. Resident identification, information and tracking. Some of the plans did not include methods to identify residents, such as wristbands, while other plans didn’t specify what information should go with residents during an evacuation (such as names and contact information for next of kin and lists of medications).
  4. Sheltering in place. Most plans didn’t include appropriate steps to ensure sufficient supplies (including potable water, food, fuel and extra medical supplies).
  5. Evacuation. Many plans did not address evacuation procedures, including transportation and evacuation routes.
  6. Communication and collaboration. Most plans inadequately addressed how the nursing home was going to communicate with residents, families, staff, authorities and ombudsmen during an emergency.

Based on this information, I’d encourage caregivers who have a loved one living in a nursing home to talk to the administrator about the emergency plan. Make sure now that the facility has a well-conceived plan to keep your loved one safe.

Posted in Nursing Home | 2 Comments »
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2 Comments to “Are nursing homes prepared for emergencies?”

  1. Jennifer

    After working in one a few years back, I realised it was not for me. I think this happens a great deal. People get into it since its pretty easy to get hired, then realize that they can not handle it. Very high turnover rates.

  2. People whose loved ones are in nursing homes should make sure first that the facility they’ve chosen can react well to emergency. This is to ensure the safety of their loved ones 24/7. This piece of information is not just for family members but also to nursing homes that are eager to provide quality and excellent care to their residents.

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