IRMA MISERY CONTINUES
Assisted-living facilities, nursing homes checked Trump tours devastation, praises recovery efforts Officials warn victims to be wary of scammers
Abby Dozier hasn’t heard from her 62-year-old brother, who has schizophrenia, since before Hurricane Irma struck early Monday.
He lives at Summer Time Retirement Home near Winter Park, which is among nursing homes and assisted-living facilities throughout the state without power.
“There’s no way to reach them,” said Dozier of Vero Beach. “I’m worried about them having no power. I don’t know how much ventilation they have … the heat really takes its toll.”
A day after eight people died in a South Florida nursing home that had no power, Florida Gov. Rick Scott asked emergency workers to check on nursing homes and assisted-living communities in their areas.
First responders across Central Florida assessed conditions at hundreds of facilities.
The door was propped open at Summer Time on Thursday, and several people sat beneath a covered carport in the parking lot. A dozen more were scattered throughout the lobby on couches and chairs with a single rotary fan pushing air in their direction.
Law officers checked on the Wymore Road facility Wednesday and decided no evacuation was necessary.
But late Thursday, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs issued an executive order mandating that all nursing homes, assisted-living facilities and care homes for the developmentally disabled evacuate residents if they don’t have electricity and air conditioning.
As of Thursday evening, 39 of 683 nursing homes in Florida — including one in Lake and one in Osceola — were without power, according to the Florida Health Care Association. State law requires nursing homes and assisted-living facilities to have an emergency-management plan, including provisions for emergency power, food and water after a disaster.
“There’s no regulation that says the generator has to power all the air-conditioning or heating units,” said Dr. John Potomsky, a geriatrician in Brevard County and past president of the Florida Medical Directors Association, which focuses on post-acute and long-term care medicine. “It just gives guidance that it should be a safe environment for residents.”
On Wednesday, Orange County Fire Rescue evacuated 82 people from Brookdale Wekiwa Springs assisted-living facility near Apopka after receiving a 911 call from a nurse. Orange County Emergency Management officials said they did not have an emergency-management plan on file for Brookdale. A spokeswoman said the company has a plan but needs to update its organizational chart. She described it as an “administrative issue” and said Brookdale is committed to preparing its communities for crises.
“We’ve got about 70 patients here that have been out of power, without water, without food since Sunday, so there’s no way to tell how many people are in need of medical [care],” the nurse told a dispatcher. “Air inside is at a temperature of 95. The actual temperature is 88.”
The residents were taken to other Brookdale properties, company spokeswoman Dana Schroering said.
Forty more residents were ordered to leave Green Tree Assisted Living on Forest City Road north of Orlando later Wednesday. That evacuation came after firefighters responded to a nurse’s call reporting that a 69-year-old dementia patient was overheated.
“We are out of power since this hurricane came, and you know we’re doublestaffed trying to keep hydrated, but she doesn’t look good,” the nurse said. “It just looks like, you know, when you’re so hot.”
The aging body loses its ability to recognize excess heat because signals such as thirst weaken, experts said. The body also starts losing its ability to sweat, so it can’t regulate temperature. And medical conditions could render people immobile or unable to think through the process of getting water.
“Those of us in the aging community have known for a long time that these are the most underrepresented people in the community, without an advocate,” said Dr. Rosemary Laird, a geriatrician in Orlando and executive medical director of Florida Hospital for Seniors.
“It’s sadly a known problem that older adults are most susceptible to heat and becoming symptomatic or dying from heat stroke,” Laird said.
Before Jacobs issued the executive order, Orange County Fire Rescue directed all of its 41 stations to assess the county’s 184 assisted-living facilities and nursing homes’ abilities to provide power, care, food and water in the hurricane’s aftermath, county spokeswoman Kat Kennedy said.
The Orlando Fire Department has been canvassing senior centers, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities and delivering ice and water to the senior residential high-rise, Kinneret Apartments downtown.
On Thursday, firefighters and inspectors conducted in-person wellness checks at all senior facilities in the city.
Winter Park first responders checked all assisted-living facilities in their jurisdiction immediately following the storm, and those without power were rechecked daily, city spokeswoman Clarissa Howard said. By Thursday morning, all had electricity, she said.
Before hurricane season, Duke Energy meets with counties to determine which sites need to have power restored first in a mass outage, spokeswoman Ann Marie Varga said. Typically, these include nursing homes, hospitals, police stations and fire stations.
In Seminole County, officials spent the past few days calling nursing homes and assisted-living facilities and cross-checking power-outage maps to make sure residents were safe.
“Most of them either had generators or they got their facilities back up and running,” Seminole County official Jeff Caldwell said.
One Seminole assisted-living facility evacuated about 22 residents to a shelter on Wednesday because the power was still out, he said. Another home sent its residents to a shelter in Longwood.
Workers from Sunbelt Tree Service remove a large oak tree from a house on Thistle Lane in Maitland on Thursday.