Florida assists seniors amid Irma recovery
HOLLYWOOD, Fla. — Florida seniors shuffled out of stifling assisted-living centers Thursday while caregivers fought a lack of air conditioning with Popsicles and cool compresses after eight people died at a nursing home in the posthurricane heat.
Dozens of the state’s senior centers still lacked electricity in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma, and several facilities were forced to evacuate. While detectives sought clues to the deaths, emergency workers went door to door to look for anyone else who was at risk.
Fifty-seven residents were moved from a suburban Fort Lauderdale assisted-living facility without power to two nearby homes where power had been restored. Owner Ralph Marrinson said all five of his Florida facilities lost electricity after Irma.
“FPL has got to have a better plan for power,” he said, referring to the state’s largest utility, Florida Power & Light. “We’re supposed to be on a priority list, and it doesn’t come and it doesn’t come, and frankly it’s very scary.”
Stepped-up safety checks were conducted around the state after eight deaths at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, which shocked Florida’s top leaders as they surveyed destruction from the punishing storm.
Statewide, 64 nursing homes were still waiting Thursday for full power, according to the Florida Health Care Association. The separate Florida Assisted Living Association said many of its South Florida members lacked electricity. The group was working on a precise count.
A day earlier near Orlando, firefighters helped relocate 122 people from two assisted-living centers that had been without power since the storm. And at the 15,000-resident Century Village retirement community in Pembroke Pines, where there were also widespread outages, rescue workers went door to door to check on residents and bring ice, water and meals.
For older people living on their own, such as 94-year-old Mary Dellaratta, getting help can depend on the attentiveness of neighbors, family and local authorities. The widow evacuated her Naples condominium with the help of police the day before the hurricane. After the storm passed, a deputy took her back home and another brought her food. A deacon from her Roman Catholic church also stopped by.
But with no family in the area and neighbors who are gone or unwilling to help, the New York native feels cut off from the world.
“I have nobody,” she said.
Though the number of people with electricity has improved from earlier in the week, some 4.9 million people across the peninsula continued to wait for power. Utility officials warned it could take a week or more for all areas to be back up and running.
Including the nursing home deaths, at least 26 people in Florida have died under Irma-related circumstances, and six more in South Carolina and Georgia, many of them well after the storm passed. The death toll across the Caribbean stood at 38.
On Thursday, detectives were at the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills after receiving a search warrant to investigate the eight patients’ deaths, which police believed were heat-related.
Reached by phone on Thursday, Rosemary Cooper, a licensed practical nurse at the rehabilitation center, declined to discuss specifics about the case, citing the investigation.
President Donald Trump doled out hoagies and handshakes in the sweltering Florida heat on Thursday as he took a firsthand tour of Irma’s devastation and liberally dispensed congratulatory words about the federal and state recovery effort.
Trump, who was in and out of the state in less than three hours, got an aerial view of the water-deluged homes along Florida’s southwestern coast from his helicopter, then drove in his motorcade along streets lined with felled trees and shuttered stores on his way to a mobile home community hit hard by the storm.
Walking along a street in Naples Estates with his wife, Melania, the president encountered piles of broken siding and soggy furniture heaped on front porches, and residents who were happy to get a presidential visit.
Trump earlier met with federal and state leaders in Fort Myers, where he was brimming with enthusiasm for the state and federal response effort. “It’s a team like very few people have seen,” he said.
Patients at Krystal Bay Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in NorthMiami Beachweremoved after it lost power.