Snow Means Special Challenges for Seniors, Nursing Homes in NJ

The year’s first snowfall is always an exciting thing, but a little goes a long way. Here in New Jersey, of course, we get more than just a little.

For our state’s senior population, substantial snowfall can be a serious concern, and not just because of the cold weather. When blizzards become emergencies, issues like transportation, evacuation, and access to healthcare present true urgencies for the elderly.

A recent New York Times article describes the turmoil that a Buffalo, NY nursing home is enduring during the most recent snowstorm, which is responsible for more than a dozen deaths. Among those killed is a 92-year-old resident at Garden Gate Health Care Facility, though the circumstances of her death (and the role that snowfall played) remain unclear.

It was Hurricane Sandy that taught nursing homes nationwide to take emergency evacuation plans seriously. Many elderly and mentally disabled patients along coastal New Jersey and New York were stranded.

But even with an evacuation plan in place, the unforeseeable can still arise. That’s what happened in Buffalo, where the nursing home was surprised to find its structural integrity in question thanks to several feet of snow. A nearby warehouse had already collapsed. The available solutions all seemed like a challenge.

Of course, evacuations are never easy. That’s especially true when frail seniors with pressing healthcare needs are involved.

As the winter months press on, it’s important to keep calm but also to have a plan in place for your family. Talk with your loved ones’ nursing homes or assisted living facilities. Are they prepared for sudden winter emergencies? Do you know where your family members will go or how they’ll get there?

If you have questions about senior care and winter-weather preparedness, a New Jersey elder law attorney can help. Feel free to give us a call to talk about your concerns.