Natural disasters are the one thing we must all prepare to be unprepared for. Because of the unpredictable nature of natural disasters, it’s often hard to know what we will need — however, a plan can make incredible improvements to safety and health in the event of a disaster. During COVID and the recent power outages in Texas, as well as wildfires, it became clear that long-term care facilities were in dire need of natural disaster planning. In response to this need, Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden and Senate Special Committee on Aging Chair Bob Casey released investigative findings under the report titled Left in the Dark. This investigation briefly examined the issue and then offered 8 recommendations to keep residents safe in the face of future emergencies and disasters.
8 Recommendations from Left in the Dark
The following recommendations are directly from the Left in the Dark research report. These recommendations are founded in some of the issues we’ve been advocating for such as staffing standards and transparency. Ultimately, these recommendations, if enforced, would be key to improving nursing home care across the board. Additionally, residents, their loved ones, and facility staff would have peace of mind during a disaster, relieving some of the stress.
- Improve Inclusivity of Disaster Planning, Preparedness and Management in Communities: Federal, state and local governments should ensure older adults, people with disabilities and residents of longterm care facilities are substantially involved in emergency planning, response, mitigation, management, and recovery. Congress should pass the Real Emergency Access for Aging and Disability Inclusion (REAADI) for Disasters Act.
- Improve Staffing—Nursing Home Inspectors: Congress should increase funding to CMS for survey and certification activities to ensure that nursing homes comply with federal quality and safety requirements, including emergency preparedness rules. States should ensure their survey agencies, which oversee federally certified health care providers, are able to offer competitive wages to recruit and retain inspectors.
- Improve Staffing—Nursing Homes: CMS should issue mandatory minimum staffing standards for Skilled Nursing Facilities and Nursing Facilities. Congress should pass provisions in the Nursing Home Improvement and Accountability Act of 2021 to improve staffing, such as additional federal resources through Medicaid to increase worker wages.
- Increase the Transparency of Emergency Plans: CMS should consider requiring nursing homes to provide residents and their families with copies of the facility’s emergency preparedness plan. CMS should also consider posting emergency plans on Care Compare to make them easily accessible.
- Incorporate Climate Change Risks into Emergency Preparedness: CMS should consider requiring nursing homes to incorporate climate change risks, such as the increasing incidence of extreme weather events, into emergency preparedness planning.
- Incorporate Renewable Energy into Emergency Preparedness: CMS and states should ensure emergency power requirements allow nursing homes to use clean energy resources. CMS should notify nursing homes of funding available through the Inflation Reduction Act, and other federal programs, to reduce costs of clean energy installation.
- Ensure Equitable Emergency Preparedness: CMS should study the equity of emergency preparedness in and among nursing homes, examining factors including payer mix, racial and ethnic makeup, climate change risks, and the community’s social vulnerability index. CMS should use the study to evaluate ways to improve emergency preparedness for people of color, people living in poverty, and people with disabilities who live in nursing homes.
- Emergency Power for Long-Term Care: CMS should adopt additional requirements to specifically require that emergency power capacity be capable of maintaining the safe and comfortable temperature standard. States should consider similar emergency power requirements for assisted living facilities, and other residential settings that cater to older adults and people with disabilities, that are not subject to federal regulation.
If you or a loved one have been a victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, call Gharibian Law (877-875-1119) today for a free consultation and the best legal representation.