Will your loved one in a nursing home be safe in an emergency?

Kentucky, like most parts of the country, has had more than its fair share of severe weather in recent years. If you have a loved one in a nursing home, you assume that if there’s a flood or another damaging weather event, the staff will make sure that they’re kept safe even if they have to be evacuated.

Unfortunately, as we’ve seen in examples from Florida to California, vulnerable nursing home residents are sometimes abandoned by staff who leave them behind or they suffer harm or worse because there’s no workable evacuation plan for them. The injuries and deaths that result – not to mention the sheer terror – are preventable.

Besides weather events and natural disasters, nursing homes have a responsibility to be prepared for any emergency – like a structure fire, for example. That means having a plan for notifying authorities and first responders and getting residents to a safe location if necessary.

What questions should you ask your loved one’s nursing home?

Whether you’re currently looking at nursing homes for a loved one or already have someone in a residential facility, it’s crucial to be sure they’re prepared for emergencies. That’s particularly important if you don’t live nearby. You have a right to get answers to questions like the following:

  • Do they have an emergency plan? Do they do emergency drills with staff? Do all staffers know their role? Get a copy of the plan.
  • What are their backups if the electricity goes out? How will equipment like respirators function? How will the temperature be regulated?
  • Do they have an evacuation plan? Where will residents be transported if it’s not safe to stay in the facility? What if that backup location is also unsafe or inaccessible?
  • When did the state last do an emergency preparedness inspection? Ask for a copy of the findings and follow-up actions.

Also, find out who you can contact to make sure your loved one is safe. There should be a number other than one directly tied to the facility

If you’re not satisfied with the level of preparedness of your loved one’s facility, contact the appropriate county nursing home ombudsman. If your loved one has already been harmed by a lack of emergency preparedness or other negligence or actions by the nursing home, it’s wise to seek legal guidance.


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