As Floridians regroup from Hurricane Irma, it is clear that the state’s system for protecting frail older residents failed after Hurricane Irma. Ten people died in a tragic chain of miscommunication and inexplicable failure to act after a Broward County rehabilitation center lost cooling for more than 150 residents for three days during Hurricane Irma. Astonishingly, a fully functional hospital, where air conditioning was available, was right across the street.

“Florida’s frail elders have spent lifetimes raising families and building up the state,” said Jeff Johnson, AARP’s Florida state director. “Gov. Rick Scott did the right thing in issuing an executive order requiring Florida nursing homes and assisted living facilities to provide emergency cooling for up to four days after a major storm.”

Johnson is calling on the Florida Legislature to codify Gov. Scott’s executive order in state law, thus ensuring that frail older Floridians and their families will be protected in future administrations.

To sign AARP Florida’s petition urging legislators to act to protect frail Florida elders, go here.

Johnson also called on the Legislature to direct the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA), whose inspectors already visit Florida nursing homes regularly, to perform immediate on-site inspections at every nursing home and assisted living facility in the aftermath of a major natural disaster that causes a loss of electrical power. The inspections should occur as soon as the facilities are accessible.

AARP Florida also is calling on lawmakers to require Florida utility companies to prioritize nursing homes as the same priority as hospitals for power restoration after an outage. Currently, hospitals are listed as a top priority but nursing homes are a lower priority. Johnson also called on legislators to enact an overarching plan to protect older Floridians regardless of residential setting.

While many elder-care facilities did the right thing and protected their residents after Hurricane Irma, Florida families deserve to know that independent inspectors have verified that their loved ones are safe.

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