The death of eight nursing home residents in Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irma is tragic and sad. It is a reminder of the vulnerability of long-term care residents, and older adults needing care and services in their own homes. This tragic situation provides a hard lesson about what it means to be prepared for an emergency, and the need to monitor the adequacy of those plans.
We know that elders are particularly susceptible to dehydration and heat, and therefore vulnerable in times of natural disaster like Hurricane Irma. Therefore, this tragic situation was foreseeable. Florida, federal and local officials are investigating this terrible tragedy. It appears that the blame game has begun with government officials blaming the nursing home and nursing home officials stating they attempted to ask government officials and the power company for help. Regardless, I think one thing is clear – Everyone failed these vulnerable nursing home residents.
We as a society have a responsibility to take care of our most vulnerable citizens. Mahatma Ghandi once said, “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members.” We must stand true to these words and do better to protect the most vulnerable. There is an urgent need to reassess standards and procedures for both prevention and response to emergencies.
The below link to a Washington Post article about the nursing home deaths gives you a good overview of what happened and what went wrong.