I don’t believe there has ever been a year when so many senior living residents had their lives imperiled because of hurricanes and fires.

By Steve Moran

I don’t believe there has ever been a year when so many senior living residents had their lives imperiled because of hurricanes and fires:

  1. Harvey in Texas

  2. Irma in Florida

  3. The fires in Northern California

  4. And the fire — apparently not related to a natural disaster — at Barclay Friends in West Chester, Pennsylvania  

Hundreds of senior living communities were impacted; dozens were forced to evacuate. There have been some horrific news stories, most notably about the Florida nursing home where more than a dozen residents died. And yet with the exception of the Florida nursing home, where based on all of the news accounts, there is no excuse for what happened. Team members went above and beyond and human tragedy was avoided.  

The promise and premise of senior living as a place that protects and serves aging Americans was proven true and right. To the best of my knowledge, there were no deaths except for the shameful nursing home incident that blemished the entire industry.

Some Lessons

  1. We Did Pretty Damn Good — Nothing to add to that. Staff and management went above and beyond to do what needed to be done. It makes me proud and should make us all proud.

  1. It Is Always Messy — Along the way, there have been a number of stories of missing residents and imperfect processes. This is expected and the reason we have plans is that we know it gives us a head-start when a disaster hits. We also know that the moment the real disaster hits, the plan will go to hell. And yet it makes all the difference in the world.

  1. Some People Will Always Complain — Because disasters are always messy affairs, people will find reasons to complain. Mostly complaining happens because people love to complain. Sometimes the complaints are legitimate and we can learn from them. And sometimes, complaining is a way people deal with stress.

  1. We Need to Learn From Our Own and Other’s Experiences — When these things happen there are always lessons to be learned. It is kind of nice when we can learn from others. The post-mortem needs to look at what worked, what didn’t and what could have been better. Without blame, because I promise, that everyone was doing the best they could.

  1. We Need to be Telling the Good Stories — Brookdale has done a masterful job with this video. These good stories are powerful and overpower the bad. At the end of the day, while the process was often messy, residents were well cared for and team members really went above and beyond.  

This year of disasters is a year that should make us, as an industry, very very proud.