Hurricane season has just begun in Florida and this time of year brings up a unique set of potential health risks for the elderly. With hurricanes come power outages and evacuations, things that can lead to stress on what may already be a weakened state.

According to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), nursing homes are required to have plans and procedures in place for emergencies such as storms and to have lines of communication set up to coordinate their efforts with other local care providers and government agencies. It’s important to speak to your loved one’s nursing home to know the details of their specific disaster/evacuation plan.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • Does your facility have generators?
  • How frequently do you practice or review your emergency plans with residents?
  • How will I be notified in the event of an evacuation?
  • What is the best way for me to reach you in the event of a disaster/evacuation?
  • What are your plans for managing food and water in an emergency?

Because of the fragility of many nursing home residents’ health, evacuation may cause more stress to the community as opposed to staying put. If you hear that your loved one’s nursing home will be shelter-in-place, here’s what to expect, according to the Florida Health Care Association:

  • Residents with complex or unstable conditions may still need to be evacuated to a hospital
  • Residents with special care needs will be individually assessed to ensure the stability of their condition(s)
  • The facility’s structural integrity influences the decision to evacuate or shelter-in-place
  • Security must be sufficient to protect residents and staff, to protect from desperate individuals that may attempt to forcefully take provisions
  • Sufficient quantities of supplies such as food and medications must be acquired prior to an emergency in order to shelter-in-place
    • Florida Requirements and Recommendations
      • One-week of non-perishable food & supplies
      • 3 gallons of drinkable water supply per resident per day during and after a disaster
      • 72 hours worth of essential supplies

National Criteria for Evacuation Decision-Making in Nursing Homes