Long-term Care Coalition works to implement Community Disaster Plans

Monday, December 4, 2017

Scenes from a Florida nursing home showing residents waist deep in water while sitting in their wheel chairs brought home the fact that disasters can strike anywhere and can affect the most vulnerable among us. In light of this, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has released updated rules aimed at better ensuring the safety of residents living in long-term care. The Living Center in Marshall is among the first in our community to engage a task force to implement these rules.

The requirements are part of a wide-reaching national response to potential disasters covering everything from bio-terrorism and manmade incidents to pandemics, hurricanes, earthquakes and more. The Living Center, led by Administrator Theresia Metz, is working with local emergency management officials and other long-term care facilities as part of a coalition of area stakeholders to implement a comprehensive plan for disaster response. The efforts are already receiving attention from other communities looking to duplicate the work that is taking place in Saline County.

“When we saw the list of requirements from CMS, it confirmed much of the training and work we had already done here at The Living Center. But one of the opportunities we saw was to coordinate with other facilities community-wide,” said Metz. “I reached out to Tony Day, (Saline County EMA Director) and Russ (Donnell, Emergency Planner for the Saline County Health Department), to see how they could help us with our community risk assessment. That conversation has grown to bring more coalition partners to the table.”

“The new requirements include everything from risk assessment to communication and implementation plans along with training exercises with long-term care facilities. It is our goal that this coalition opens the lines of communication between facilities so that ultimately we can implement some drills to further improve our readiness,” said Donnell.

As part of the new requirements, long-term care facilities were instructed to do an internal and external audit of potential risks to residents in their community. Such risks include proximity to floodplains, highways with mass transit and weather patterns. Following this audit, long-term care facilities are then required to work with local emergency officials to determine the risks in the community and implement plans to mitigate those risks. These risks can vary greatly depending on the community.

“I have been here almost five years, but my staff have been here their whole lives. We sat down and talked about all the different things that can impact our residents, and it was quite an eye-opening exercise,” said Metz. “From floods and fires to tornadoes and farming incidents, we really do have a lot to plan for. Fortunately, we have been very involved in training and educational opportunities at the state level and had already done a lot of the ground work to meet the CMS requirements prior to their release in November.”

Donnell agreed that TLC leadership has been instrumental in bringing the community together.

“Theresia has really been instrumental in getting this coalition together. It is our hope that this coalition will meet on a regular basis and elect a group of officers to continue to move us forward in caring for our residents and complying with the regulations provided by CMS,” said Donnell.

In addition to the comprehensive vulnerability analysis required for all long-term care facilities, CMS also requires that the plans be communicated to long-term care residents and family members so that they can be confident in the care that will be provided if an unfortunate event takes place. The Living Center is actively working to develop materials to communicate these plans to residents and their families. Discussions already have taken place during the regular family meetings that occur within the facility.

Other facilities represented in the first long-term care coalition meeting were Big Bend Retreat, Georgia Brown Blosser Home for the Aged, Golden Oaks, Heartland Residential Care Center, Highland Home, Mar-Saline Manor Care Center, Royal Oaks, Sweet Springs Villa and Westport Estates Assisted Living. The next meeting will be held in January. For more information, call Metz at the Living Center at (660) 886-9676.