Hurricanes & The Vulnerable: What Have We Learned?

Hurricane Harvey caused devastation in Texas.  We all saw video of seniors in a nursing home sitting in filthy water midway up their wheelchairs.

Hurricane Irma caused devastation in Florida and throughout the southeastern USA.  We all saw video and news articles about 14 seniors who died in a Hollywood nursing home when they died from heat prostration due to no electric power, therefore, no air-conditioning. While these individuals were literally roasting to death, there was Memorial Hospital next door and no action was taken in a timely, appropriate fashion to rescue these people.

“On September 16, 2017, following the tragic deaths of eight people at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills in Broward County, Governor Rick Scott is directing Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) Secretary Justin Senior and Florida Department of Elder Affairs Secretary Jeffrey Bragg to issue emergency rules to keep Floridians safe in health care facilities during emergencies. Pursuant to the emergency action, within the next 60 days, all assisted living facilities (ALFs) and nursing homes must obtain ample resources, including a generator and the appropriate amount of fuel, to sustain operations and maintain comfortable temperatures for at least 96-hours following a power outage. This is based on standards already in place at all hospitals in Florida.

The emergency action also requires:

State Fire Marshal Jimmy Patronis to conduct inspections of these generators within 15 days of installation at the facilities;

Local emergency management officials to either approve or deny the emergency management plans already required to be submitted to them by law from residential healthcare facilities to ensure it sufficiently protects life;

Each local emergency management agency must post all approved facility emergency management plans to their website within ten days of the plan’s approval; and

Facilities must submit proof of compliance with the emergency rules to AHCA and Elder Affairs within 48-hours of each plan’s approval.”

These hurricanes have brought to our attention the potential abuse of seniors in facilities.  Action is being taken.  That is a good thing.  However, there is daily abuse of seniors in their own homes – you do not have to be an elder law attorney to be wary of a suspicious situation with a family member, a neighbor, or an acquaintance.  If you suspect abuse or self-neglect, how can you look away?  Contact family.  If family is the problem, then dial Adult Protective Services at 1-800-962-2873.  And this does not just apply to seniors (persons 65 or older); this applies to vulnerable persons of any age.

By: Arlene Lakin, Esq.