There are a lot of factors West Virginia residents should consider when choosing a nursing home: proximity to family members and friends who will visit regularly, cost and so forth. Given the frequency of reports detailing horrific instances of nursing home abuse, however, it is also a decision that demands a great deal of research. But even then, even after doing everything possible to make sure your loved one will receive the kind of care he or she deserves -- actually choosing a nursing home requires more than just a little faith and trust.
In numerous previous blog posts, we've talked about important factors and actions people can take to make the best choice for their loved ones. Today we want to highlight one more item to consider: nursing home plans for natural disasters and emergencies.
While West Virginia certainly isn't the first state that comes to mind on the subject of natural disasters, tornadoes, flash floods, wild fires, blizzards and even earthquake damage have all been a part of our state's history. Emergencies, on the other hand, can occur anywhere, any time, for any number of reasons. In relation to a discussion about nursing homes, however, the most likely emergency situations would probably involve fires or power outages.
In any case, nursing homes that take their responsibilities seriously should have detailed emergency plans to deal with these situations and, in fact, are required to have such plans by the government. The problem is that the level of detail required of these plans is not sufficient to ensure quality patient care.
Shamefully, nearly seven years after Hurricane Katrina led to the deaths of 35 people at just one New Orleans nursing home (139 total deaths of nursing home residents were reported), Department of Health and Human Services investigators recently acknowledged that many of our nation's nursing care homes are still woefully unprepared to cope with even lesser catastrophes.
In our next post, we'll take a closer look at some of the specific findings from the DHHS survey and this easily overlooked form of nursing home neglect.
Source: The Huffington Post, "Nursing Homes Disaster Plans: Big Gaps Found In Emergency Preparedness Response," Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, April 16, 2012