When Hurricane Harvey hit southeast Texas late last month, it brought more than just high-speed winds, record rainfall, and catastrophic flooding. It also brought out the best in the people of our industry — folks going above and beyond to help seniors, even when they themselves were likewise in danger or suffering from the storm’s impact.
And they’ve done this caregiving under extreme conditions: As the New York Times recently reported, there have been significant challenges of keeping older adults healthy and safe during and after the storm, with numerous highways and roads impassable except by boat, more than 100 dialysis centers closed, elders’ medications lost or waterlogged, and an estimated 4,500 residents evacuated from more than 130 Texas nursing homes and assisted living communities. Senior living trade organization, Argentum said that most of its member companies were prepared for and able to deal with the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey. Home Health Care News reported that home health care providers in the region likewise adhered to their emergency protocols and prepared for the storm before it hit full force.
To shine a light on the incredible experiences and efforts involved in caring for seniors in the affected area, we’ve compiled these stories from senior living and in-home care organizations.
Dry, Safe & Dedicated at The Village of MeyerlandLynn Wallace, a senior vice president at Retirement Center Management, shared that Hurricane Harvey was no match for their Caring Star community, The Village of Meyerland in Houston, Texas, which remained an “island” in the center of flooded streets. Dedicated staff used kayaks to go out to the surrounding homes to help rescue stranded elderly neighbors, bringing them into this assisted living and memory care community where compassionate support, delicious food, entertaining programs, and electricity (via a permanent generator) was being provided to residents and the new guests alike. As Lynn said, “The Village of Meyerland continues to shine even through the darkest of clouds.”
In fact, none of the Retirement Center Management (RCM) communities had to be evacuated, and its corporate leadership remains in regular contact with each affected community to ensure their safety and to provide support and additional supplies as needed.
“Our communities were well prepared with a hurricane disaster plan in place and were equipped with food, water, temporary and/or permanent generators and supplies to care for residents,” Lynn said in a statement on their disaster response. “We are extremely proud of our staff and the dedication, compassion and supportive care they continue to provide.” RCM is also offering temporary or permanent senior housing for those seniors who were forced to evacuate their homes, providing a safe, comfortable place to live until their homes are repaired or as a new permanent residence for them.
Move-In Relief for Hard-Hit Seniors & Their Families
“With the situation in Texas, we wanted to do something to help the families struggling to find a place for their loved ones,” said Petra Santos, a vice president at Spring Hills Senior Communities. At its Poet’s Walk memory care community locations in Round Rock, San Antonio, and Cedar Park, they are offering lifetime monthly discounts for new residents in the State of Texas.
Atria Cares for Its Residents and Its Staff
Shared in a public message on the Facebook page of its Covina, CA location: Atria Senior Living operates 14 communities in Texas, with five in the Houston area and one in nearby Beaumont. Before the storm hit, three of its communities evacuated residents to the safety of hotel rooms in north Houston and Tyler, Texas — where those residents received plenty of food and water, entertainment and support from a dedicated team of Atria employees.
But it wasn’t just their residents who were affected by the catastrophic storm: Currently, many of its 350+ employees in the area are also displaced and now navigating through very difficult circumstances. To help them too: the company is hosting Fundraising Cookouts at its communities across the nation to raise money for Atria Cares, a nonprofit organization that provides emergency financial assistance — not loans — to Atria staff in need. The funds it raises from the cookouts will be in addition to a sizeable contribution Atria has already made to the nonprofit employee assistance program.
“We’re very proud of our Atria employees, who have been working tirelessly, away from their own families, to care for our residents during the storm,” the company said in announcing the fundraiser. Follow their national Facebook page for updates as well, such as this heartfelt message and photos shared on September 1st.
At Home Instead in Houston: Affected Staff Seek to Help More
Rich Jeffrey at Home Instead Senior Care’s national office shared that there were 11 franchise offices affected by Hurricane Harvey, with Home Instead assisting them every way they could. Only one needed to cease operations temporarily at the peak of the storm, and several of their caregivers worked far longer than the shift they were assigned, to accommodate clients until family could help. Here’s one story of a professional in-home caregiver in Houston, from the afternoon of Monday, August 28th: Gregory Gomez-Mira, owner of Home Instead’s Houston South and South Central office, was calling his staff to make sure everyone was accounted for. He reached one caregiver whose apartment had been flooded and whose car was totaled from the floodwaters. Despite her own situation, she had still managed to show up for her caregiving shift at the local hospital by renting a car. Greg spoke to her around 3pm that day and asked why she was still at the hospital given that her shift ended early that morning. She said that she had no place to go and didn’t want to leave the hospital fearing that her rental car would be towed. With much persuading, Greg convinced her to come into the company’s office instead. Upon arrival there, she immediately asked if there were any extra shifts to pick up and how she could help their senior clients.
Caring Phone Calls When Roads Blocked
Katie Roper, a vice president with Home Care Assistance, shared that their employees in Houston worked around the clock during and shortly after the storm. With the roads flooded and preventing their caregivers from reaching seniors’ homes, they reached out with support by phone. “We’ve been calling clients every 2-3 hours to check in,” she said, and added that they also have several clients they’re now helping to deal with FEMA.
Please add your senior living or in-home care organization’s Hurricane Harvey story in the comments, or email me to have your story and photos added to this post.
We’ll also continue to monitor the stories and learning being shared in industry and mainstream press, such as the responses Lois Bowers of McKnights Senior Living published, the fundraising effort by Argentum and the Texas Assisted Living Association, the ‘looking ahead’ insights that Senior Housing News shared, and other reports that exemplify just how much our industry cares, even so in the worst of times.
Do you need emergency preparedness content to share with the families and seniors you support? Visit Caring.com’s emergency preparedness in senior care topic center for related resources, and contact our team to get reprint rights.
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