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2017 hurricane caused hundreds of nursing home deaths

Nursing home operators must protect the safety of its residents against natural and manmade threats. But 90 days after Hurricane Irma in 2017, there were 665 more nursing home deaths in Florida compared to a similar period in 2015. Failure to protect residents may be another form of nursing home abuse and neglect.

Study

Hurricane Irma caused 134 deaths in Florida in 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to a study of the deaths of 695 nursing home residents issued in Oct., however, the indirect number of deaths may be higher.

University of South Florida and Brown University researchers examined data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and studied the health outcomes of approximately 62,000 people in 640 Florida nursing homes who were 65 and older. Their study focused on the time before, during and after Hurricane Irma. This data was then compared to nursing homes for the same period in 2015 when there were no hurricanes.

The likelihood of hospitalization rose substantially within 30 and 90 days after the hurricane, according to the study. There were 262 more nursing home deaths at 30 days and 433 more at 90 days following Hurricane Irma compared to the same periods in 2015.

People who were long-term residents for at least 90 days before Sept. 2017 had worse hospitalization and mortality rates. Residents who were functionally impaired had a greater likelihood of having ailments such as dementia, heart disease and diabetes.

This study reinforced what was already known about storms and the elderly, according to an advocate. Elderly nursing home residents are a very vulnerable group which can suffer serious consequences after these events.

Previous actions

Dozens of residents died at the Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center after Hurricane Irma.      Legislation was then passed requiring Florida’s nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to install generators to keep cooling systems operating after a storm.

Long-term care facilities need to install generators that can cool residents in their individual rooms and should not use the spot coolers like the devices that were used at the Hollywood Hills Rehabilitation Center, according to the advocate. Almost 100 of the long-term care facilities had temporary generators which may require moving residents into one large space for cooling.

Facilities must be able to withstand the impact of these storms. Facilities should not transfer residents around which may expose them to transfer trauma.

An attorney can help uncover evidence when a nursing home is not adequately protecting a loved one. They may also pursue their rights in a lawsuit.

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