Every day, American families place their loved ones in nursing homes and trust they will be properly cared for by the staff.
Eight senior citizens died Sept. 13 from excessive heat inside the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills, Hollywood, Fla., when the nursing home’s air conditioning stopped working during a power loss and its backup generator failed after Hurricane Irma hit Florida Sept. 10.
Even worse, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer noted in his news broadcast Sept. 13, the Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills is located just across the street from Hollywood’s Memorial Regional Hospital.
Closer to home, Audrey Penn, 78, who went missing from a local home for senior citizens Aug. 23, was recently found dead in a drainage ditch in the area of Kressler Road and Hamilton Boulevard, Lower Macungie Township.
A senior friend of mine, whom I will call Mary, walked out of another local home in broad daylight, after being placed there by her family.
Luckily, she was found safe at a deli in Allentown.
The Foundation Aiding the Elderly, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation in California, states, “In the 21st century, nursing homes have become a standard form of care for the most aged and incapacitated persons. Nearly 6 percent of older adults are sheltered in residential facilities that provide a wide range of care.
“Before the 19th century, no age-restricted institutions existed for long-term care. Rather, elderly individuals who needed shelter because of incapacity, impoverishment or family isolation often ended their days in an almshouse.”
An almshouse is another word for poorhouse.
Before another life is lost, the state and nursing homes need to consider having Alzheimer’s and dementia patients and those who are known to wander wear an ankle bracelet with GPS or one like the ankle bracelet offered by Project Lifesaver.
Project Lifesaver is a program that helps police find people with Alzheimer’s, and other cognitive problems, who wander away from their home by fitting them with an ankle bracelet containing a transmitter that emits an individualized locating signal, so if they ever wander away, police can find them quickly.
South Whitehall and Salisbury townships, Emmaus, Bethlehem and the City of Allentown are among some of the municipalities that offer the Project Lifesaver program in the Lehigh Valley.
There should also be state mandates that surveillance cameras be placed on all doors and throughout the property at facilities that care for those who may wander off.
Even though a nursing home is a business — and the bottom line for a business is money — the main priority should be the safety and care of the residents who call the facility home.