Slideshow: Nursing Homes and Natural Disasters

You find a qualified prospect for long-term care insurance (LTCI).

Your customer buys coverage, then uses the benefits to pay for nursing home care, assisted living facility care or home care.

Then a tornado, hurricane, or earthquake heads toward your client’s residence.

What then?

One answer is that LTCI agents ought to recommend a professional review of homeowners insurance and personal property-casualty coverage when LTCI clients change living arrangements.

Another answer is that some long-term are (LTC) facilities and home care providers take disaster preparedness more seriously than others

The Office of Inspector General (OIG) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) highlighted planning gaps in a nursing home disaster preparedness report released this week.

The HHS OIG investigators looked at nursing homes because HHS has the authority to oversee disaster preparedness at nursing homes; state government agencies are responsible for reviewing assisted living facilities’ preparedness plans.

The investigators conducted in-depth reviews of 24 homes that have experienced natural disasters in the past few years. The investigators had enough candidates to choose from that they were able to limit the reviews to nursing homes that still have the same administrators and nursing directors they had at the time of the disasters.

In real disasters, investigators say, the 24 nursing homes reviewed reported having more trouble than they had expected with matters such as rounding up backup staff, providing drinking water, and transporting medical records in an emergency.

The challenges can lead to serious hardship. Analysts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) note in a background paper that people ages 60 and older made up just 15% of the population of New Orleans in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina hit, but that people in that age group suffered about 70% of the reported mortalities.

“Data from the Louisiana Department of Health show that almost 70 nursing home residents died in their facilities,” the CDC analysts report. “Many were allegedly abandoned by their caretakers. Almost no information is available on what happened to residents of assisted living, board and care homes, and other less-regulated facilities.”

Some disaster-prone states such as California and Florida, keep careful watch on assisted living facilities, but some other states have been less vigilant. The Assisted Living Federation of America, Alexandria, Va., has tried to fill the gaps by publishing a detailed preparedness guide for member facilities.

Meanwhile, here is a glimpse at the kinds of disasters that affected the nursing homes the HHS OIG inspectors reviewed.


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