LTC urged to prepare for lousy weather

New federal guidelines that outline climate threats to the healthcare system find nursing homes are more vulnerable during extreme weather and are less resilient afterward.

“Primary Protection: Enhancing Health Care Resilience for a Changing Climate” includes planning tools to improve structural and organizational responses to disasters. The guide, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services in December, identifies affordable measures that can ensure facilities are prepared for climate impacts.

Nursing homes are deemed at particular risk because they are heavily concentrated in coastal areas and have less regulations than acute care.

“Disaster-related outcomes for this population, even when they survive the immediate danger, often are especially poor,” said Kathryn Hyer, Ph.D., Florida Policy Exchange Center on Aging.

The guidelines cite research blaming 94 “excess” nursing home deaths on evacuations for hurricanes Katrina, Rita, Gustav and Ike. 

Best practices suggested include: A comprehensive system for sheltering in place, ensuring supplies and personnel can be replenished, and determining resident relocation areas.