The Nightmare of Hurricane Harvey and Assisted Living Facilities

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While Hurricane Harvey ravaged the Texas coast, many residents of assisted living facilities faced harm, neglect and abandonment, according to a new report by AARP Texas.

The report, “Left Adrift: A Snapshot of Texas Assisted Living Facility Care During Hurricane Harvey with Policy Recommendations,” notes that despite the seriousness of these violations, the facilities responsible for the residents’ safety faced little, if any, consequence for their failure to protect vulnerable residents.

“State leaders, assisted living facility operators, and the public should heed the lessons of Hurricane Harvey to avoid similar problems in the future,” said AARP Texas Director Bob Jackson. “As the hurricane season moves into a more dangerous phase, we need to keep a watchful eye on these vulnerable Texans and take the necessary steps to protect them.”

AARP’s report examines complaints made to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) about the safety of residents in Texas’ assisted living facilities during and after Hurricane Harvey.

Based on a review of four facilities with substantiated hurricane-related violations, the following was found:

  • A series of evacuation-related complaints led HHSC inspectors to an assisted living facility in Houston that did not appear to have been repaired after the flood. Inspectors said residents were at risk of health issues due to potential mold and mildew. Water damage lines and dark circular areas were observed. At this facility, a total of eight violations were substantiated, but no fines were assessed.
  • At another facility in Houston, residents were left completely unattended during Hurricane Harvey. Once residents were eventually evacuated by boat, they stayed in the George R. Brown Convention Center for three weeks. Three violations were substantiated, resulting in fines totaling $1,000.
  • When an assisted living facility in Victoria evacuated residents by bus to Cedar Park, one resident was left behind. Hours later, facility administrators realized their mistake and officers from the Victoria Police Department found the resident in her locked room. Two violations were substantiated, but no fines were assessed.
  • When flood waters began filling an assisted living facility in Dickinson, none of the vehicles identified in the emergency preparedness and response plan were on site. Nearly eight hours after the facility began to flood, residents were still sitting in waist-deep water, waiting for help. An insufficient emergency preparedness plan and a finding of “abuse, neglect and exploitation,” resulted in a $550 fine.

In the report, AARP Texas shares a number of policy recommendations to address these shortcomings, including more specific regulations for assisted living facilities related to the content of emergency plans and mandatory compliance with emergency evacuation orders. Given the rapid growth of the assisted living industry in Texas and the vulnerability of the residents it serves, increased oversight is imperative.

The Left Adrift report can be downloaded here.

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