Power had been restored to the majority of nursing homes that lost it by Oct. 4, six days after the storm hit Florida, according to the Florida Health Care Association. Spokeswoman Kristen Knapp wrote in an email that Florida Power & Light, Duke Energy and other utilities “have gone to incredible lengths to help prioritize our power care centers.”
Nursing homes should be closely monitored in the coming days, says AARP’s Johnson. “Remember: Irma’s disaster in Hollywood lasted for days [after the storm],” he says. Power was generally restored much more quickly this time around, he notes, but “problems can still arise.”
Florida’s Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program, which advocates for residents of long-term care facilities, had received six inquiries about the storm from residents of assisted living facilities earlier this week, including including reports of understaffing and mold and water damage. “Historically, we see an increase in complaints over time as residents return to evacuated facilities,” spokeswoman Audra Peoples wrote in an email.
The stress or deterioration a person may feel during a change in living environment — known as transference trauma and often affecting people with dementia — is likely to be a problem that will later become apparent, Johnson says. , especially given the volume of evacuations carried out.
Staffing shortages, a longstanding problem in nursing homes across the United States, could also worsen as workers are forced to deal with their own losses from the storm. But the state reports it has moved 400 more nurses to southwest Florida. An emergency order allowing healthcare facilities to deploy out-of-state healthcare workers for the same roles in Florida during the emergency was also activated.
For now, those advocating for nursing home residents are optimistic. “The nursing home system seems to have found ways to better prepare for storms like this,” Johnson says. “And that makes me wonder: how do we bring that attention and planning to those who are aging in place so that we can also make sure they are safe? There is an opportunity for us as a state to really address this.
If you are concerned about residents of long-term care facilities affected by Hurricane Ian, contact the Florida Long-Term Care Ombudsman Program at 1-888-831-0404 or [email protected] .
Emily Paulin is a writer who covers nursing homes, health care, and federal and state politics. His work has also appeared in Large formatan Australian lifestyle publication.