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Does failure to plan for natural disasters equal nursing home neglect?

When Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, one of the most shocking stories to come from the storm- and flood-ravaged region was that of the mass lack of preparedness of area nursing homes. At one facility, 35 residents died during the storm, with some believed to have drowned in their beds when the building flooded.

But now, nearly seven years after Katrina, it seems that nursing homes in Bergen County and throughout the state and country have not learned from that tragic incident. A recent government survey indicates that nursing homes are significantly underprepared for natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes and floods, leaving their frail residents even more vulnerable to injury or death in the face of such an event.

The government requires every nursing home to maintain an emergency plan. However, there is little oversight to these plans, as showed by their wide variances and many shortcomings. Most of the plans lacked key steps such as notifying family members or even pinning name tags and lists of medication to residents prior to an evacuation.

Other common inadequacies included the failure to plan for transportation of residents and their necessary medical equipment, to replace staff members who were unable to get to work, and to coordinate with local emergency responders as to key decisions during the disaster.

What do you think? Do such shortcomings in the protection of ill and elderly residents could constitute nursing home neglect?

If your parent or loved one has suffered harm as a result of nursing home neglect or abuse, please contact Breslin & Breslin for a free consultation with an attorney.

Source: USA Today, "Big gaps found in nursing homes' disaster plans," Ricardo Alonzo-Zaldivar, April 16, 2012

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