We’ve come to the end of the year 2017, and to say this has been an interesting year is an understatement. I can honestly say that in every area of my life, this year has been a real challenge.
On a personal note, my wife and I have undertaken the task of helping our grandson with his wife and three-year-old child. This past year gave us an incredible opportunity to spend precious moments with my great granddaughter, who also got a new lease on life thanks to the family’s move to Jacksonville. Rewarding as it was, this still took some time and energy.
Professionally, I oversaw two full evacuations of my facility in 11 months. While it was extremely challenging, my staff was incredible. It took the entire team to accomplish all that goes into moving 117 residents across the state. To have this team alongside me made all the difference, and I couldn’t be more proud of each and every one of them. As difficult as it was on each of us, it’s even more difficult on the frail elders under our care. The centers to which we evacuated were also extremely accommodating and supportive, going out of their way to assist us and make sure our residents had all the comforts of home. As long term care professionals, it’s our duty to keep our residents safe, and I am thankful to those who assisted us throughout the process.
As we head into 2018, emergency preparedness will continue to be a topic of discussion. A number of bills have been filed in the Legislature, and as I write this article we’re all still sorting out the Governor’s emergency generator rules. I have a number of ideas on how to manage through a hurricane and evacuations. How decisions to evacuate are made and by whom needs to be more thoroughly discussed among emergency managers and providers, since we are the ones who know our building, our residents’ complexities and the systems we have in place for our emergency plans. Transportation and how to move frail elders in an evacuation must also be further explored. Many of our residents are in wheelchairs, so a traditional coach bus won’t work when it comes to moving over 100 residents at a time. Dedicated shelters for nursing centers should also be a consideration, as well as prioritizing our power restoration so that when the decision is made to shelter-in-place, nursing centers are among the first to come back on the grid.
Strengthening our disaster procedures and working to meet the emergency generator rule will continue to be a priority for the Association in 2018. I’m proud FHCA has made it publicly known that we support the Governor’s goal, where we differ is on the process to get there. We continue to stand ready to work with the Governor, and our hope is we can gather the experts around the table to develop a realistic plan that all of us can meet in a reasonable time frame and safe manner. This is the best way to keep our residents safe during emergency situations, and I can tell you that FHCA will not give up on this direction. When the 2018 hurricane season arrives next June, we want to have solutions and stronger procedures in place that result in fewer evacuations for all of us.
This has certainly been a roller coaster of an issue, and who knows how things will turn out. Time and energy is something that all of us seem to be limited on these days, but it’s something we’ll need as we head into January and the start of the 2018 session. FHCA needs you; your residents and staff also need you to be active and vocal at the Capitol so legislators and the media understand what’s involved in our emergency planning and response.
Take some time over the holidays to rest and refresh. Do something inspiring for yourself and your team. We’ll all need to be ready – with time and energy – for what 2018 brings.