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Report: In Harvey’s Wake, Assisted Living Facilities Show Shortcomings in Emergency Preparedness

Complaints against senior care centers after the storm prompted the AARP to investigate

The AARP of Texas issued a report on how assisted living facilities in Texas failed to respond to Harvey and compiled a list of recommendations to improve emergency preparedness. 

Residents of Houston-area assisted living facilities faced harm, neglect and abandonment during Harvey, according to documents obtained by the AARP. 

“In at least one instance, there was no staff in the facility and so residents were left to fend for themselves during one of the largest natural disasters this state has ever seen,” said Amanda Fredriksen, associate director of Advocacy for AARP Texas.

In response to complaints, the AARP report recommends strengthening emergency preparedness requirements and enforcement for assisted living facilities in Texas. That includes ensuring fines to deter violations, improving requirements for response plans, requiring facilities to alert the Texas Health and Human Services Commission of damages or flooding and requiring inspection from the commission if a facility is, indeed, damaged. 

Fredriksen said better enforcement and requirements will protect the well-being and safety of seniors living in long-term care centers. 

“We would really encourage the agency that oversees them, the Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC), to look at the structure and the fines and enforcement there, and see if that needs to be changed,” she noted. 

According to Fredriksen, assisted living centers currently face less oversight than nursing homes since they are only regulated by the state. She hopes to work with lawmakers leading up to the next legislative session to beef up emergency preparedness requirements and enforcement.

In its annual report, the HHSC also recommended improving emergency responses in assisted living facilities in the wake of Harvey.

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