New York Nursing Homes and Disasters

As images of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation in New York , New Jersey and the Northeast began to appear in the media, it seemed that a great many nursing homes were affected by the storm. It turns out that, in New York at least, these types of assisted living facilities are often located in beachfront areas. When the Rockaways were developed by urban renewal in the 50s and 60s, they were considered as ideal sites for nursing homes. Developers thought that remote locations for Nursing Homes such as the Rockaways would not be a problem for people who did not need to commute to NYC for work every day. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

Disaster at an Assisted Living Community in The Rockaways

The nightmare at the Promenade Rehabilitation and Health Care Center proved that, when disaster strikes, waterfront NY nursing homes can place their residents directly in harm’s way, and be considered nursing home neglect in New York. The problems at Promenade were made much worse by failure to plan for the coming storm, even though danger warnings were loud and clear. The facility’s generator was placed on the ground floor, which quickly filled up with water. The kitchen had flooded, and facility staff had not stocked back-up food supplies in a safe location. Residents were left in the dark and cold, growing steadily more hungry, thirsty and frightened.

Lost Patients and Improperly Maintained Records

As the situation grew more and more deadly, ambulances arrived to evacuate the nearly 200 residents to emergency shelters around the city. Many of the patients traveled without their medical records. Facility staff did not keep track of patient relocations in New York. As a result, after the storm, frantic family members did not know the condition of their loved ones or where they could find them. Some of the patients had been moved as far as 30 miles away.

Failure by Nursing Home Administrators

Post-hurricane investigations revealed dismal failure on the part of Promenade’s administrators. They had not thought to bring in extra staff to deal with the impending chaos and they had not stocked emergency supplies like medicine and flashlights. The nursing home’s director had left the city as the storm was approaching and did not return until it was over. The facility’s failure to ensure that evacuees were accompanied by staff and by their medical records violated state regulations.

Many NY Area Assisted Living Facilities were Prepared

Other nursing homes in Rockaway fared better because they had stocked enough food and placed their generators in areas away from possible flooding. It is impossible to foresee every detail in a disaster as great as Hurricane Sandy, but intelligent planning can help to make the situation less dire.

Lack of Preparation is Still Neglect

If you have a loved one in a nursing home, especially in a waterfront area, it is important that you know whether that facility has an adequate disaster and evacuation plan. While every contingency cannot be anticipated, facilities must be extra diligent to plan for the safety of those who are often ill, elderly and in need of special care.

The NYC elder abuse attorneys at the Orlow firm can help you ask the right questions in determining the safety and security of your loved one’s nursing facility. The lessons of Hurricane Sandy were very hard ones and all nursing home administrators should have learned from them. At the very least, they should now recognize the importance of proper generator location, adequate food, medical and emergency supplies and an evacuation plan that includes medical documentation and notice to residents’ families.