Nursing Homes Prepare For Hurricane Season

May 22, 2006
Reported by Vince Atkinson

Scientist believe that we are in for another active hurricane season. Now, state and local leaders are working overtime in order to prevent making the same mistakes made during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. One of the main issues being discussed is how to best evacuate the state's thousands of elderly residents that live in nursing homes.

Who can forget the tragic loss of life at many New Orleans area nursing homes. An estimated 70 nursing home patients died at 13 facilities during or right after Katrina. State lawmakers, nursing home administrators, and even just regular folks are banning together to make sure nothing like this ever happens again.

Nursing homes across Louisiana are making better plans for hurricane season 2006. Local Ombudsman Charman Cruseturner is working on the front lines of this project. Cruseturner said, "They are understanding that it is a huge undertaking to move an entire facility in just a small time frame."

Even when a plan to evacuate is in place, not everything about the plan always works. Cruseturner said, "Every facility I have spoken with, no matter how much planning they put into it, the biggest hurdle for them is transportation." Nursing home facilities all across the state are asking families to assist any way they can if another evacuation order is called. Cruseturner said, "You can have one patient that has as much as 13, 14 medications. Their medications have to go with them. Their charts have to go with them. Their equipment has to go with them."

It is critical to make hurricane evacuation plans not only for yourself, but for any elderly loved ones that may have trouble making it out of harms way. The Louisiana Senate has approved a bill that would give the state a direct role in making sure nursing homes prepare for hurricanes and can evacuate their patients. A similar measure is now pending in the Louisiana House.

If you would like more information on how to best take care of your elderly loved ones if another hurricane strikes, the Calcasieu Council On Aging is hosting an ombudsman open house. The event will be held May 31, 2006 at the CCOA complex in Lake Charles . For more information call (337) 474-2583 Ext. 226.