Last year, deadly wildfires ravaged northern California. The firestorm left dozens dead and thousands misplaced. In the midst of this disaster, staff members at two nursing homes in Santa Rosa, the city affected most by the firestorm, abandoned their residents, many of whom could not walk and suffer from memory problems. The California Department of Social Services has filed a legal complaint against the two nursing homes and is now seeking to close the facilities and strip the managers of their licenses.
Fortunately, none of the nursing home residents died or were injured in the fire. However, the Department accuses the staff of being unprepared and leaving before everyone was taken to safety. In one nursing home, staff members did not know the evacuation plan, had never participated in a fire drill, could not find flashlights or batteries when the power went out, and did not know where to find keys to a bus that could have helped in evacuation.
When the last staff members left the nursing home, family members and emergency medical workers took charge to evacuate the remaining 20 residents. “If these family members and emergency responders had not evacuated Villa Capri [nursing home] residents, more than 20 residents would have perished when Villa Capri burned to the ground after all staff left the facility,” states the complaint.
Michael Weston, spokesman for the California Department of Social Services, said that Oakmont Senior Living, the company that owns the two nursing homes, has 15 days to appeal the legal complaint and request a hearing. “Based on evidence gathered during the investigations and the statements of witnesses, the Department has determined that Oakmont Senior Living failed to protect the health and safety of residents at Varenna and Villa Capri,” Mr. Weston said.
The Department of Social Services has also accused Oakmont Senior Living of publishing inaccurate statements about the evacuation. The company said that seven employees “successfully evacuated all residents at Villa Capri,” describing it as a “team effort led by staff.” Oakmont Senior Living said on its website, “Many of our Oakmont residents and families, alongside emergency medical workers, worked hard to alert their neighbors and ensure they were also brought to safety.” However, the Department of Social Services feels these statements are “false and misleading.”
This event is a powerful reminder that disaster situations (including hurricanes, tornadoes, heat waves, forest fires, and blizzards) can be especially detrimental to elderly ones with dementia. As a loving family member or friend, there are steps that you can take to assist your elderly loved ones with dementia in case of a disaster. Following these tips and being prepared can help you and your loved ones deal with an emergency situation in the best way possible.
Source: New York Times “California Says Nursing Homes Abandoned Elderly During Fire”