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STAY OR GO: NURSING HOMES’ NATURAL DISASTER RESPONSE IN A CHANGING CLIMATE

D.A. Harris, G.A. Wellenius

Jour Nursing Home Res 2018;4:64-66

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reported 15,634 certified nursing homes in the United States in 2014. Approximately 1.4 million older adults reside in nursing homes due to a variety of clinical and social factors. Older adults who transition into nursing home care tend to have a greater prevalence of cognitive and physical morbidities, such as cognitive impairment and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Given their clinical vulnerabilities, nursing home residents are at an increased risk of adverse events due to climate change. Major hurricane systems over the past several decades have contributed to significant and avoidable loss of life among nursing homes residents. Currently, evidence from both the qualitative and quantitative literatures consistently suggest that the evacuation of nursing homes residents leads to greater morbidity and mortality compared to sheltering in place due to a host of clinical and environmental factors. However, as extreme weather events intensify due to climate change, policy makers, health officials, and nursing homes will need to reassess their disaster plans amidst the increasing risk of facility damage and need for evacuation from worsening storm systems. In this commentary we review the evidence regarding the risks of sheltering in place versus evacuation during extreme weather events and propose that climate-change projections be integrated into the conversation and development of nursing home disaster preparation.

CITATION:
D.A. Harris ; G.A. Wellenius (2018): Stay or Go: Nursing homes’ natural disaster response in a changing climate. The Journal of Nursing Home Research Science (JNHRS). http://dx.doi.org/10.14283/jnhrs.2018.12

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