Air Conditioning and Nursing Home Negligence

woman pushing another woman in a wheelchair in the summer outside a nursing home

New Jersey Nursing Home Residents And Risk of Serious Injuries Due to Air Conditioner Malfunction

When we think about nursing home negligence or malpractice, most of us think about physical or emotional abuse, or we might imagine a patient being left unattended in a bed for days at a time without receiving any care. Yet nursing home negligence can take many forms, and failing to properly maintain equipment in a facility could rise to the level of nursing home negligence. More precisely, a recent report from CBS New York discussed the evacuation of a New Jersey nursing home due to the malfunction of the facility’s air-conditioning system. While some of us may consider air conditioning to be a luxury, it can be life-saving for seniors during the hottest days of the summer.

According to the report, the air conditioning system at an Englewood, New Jersey nursing home stopped working. In order to prevent serious patient injuries, staff members at the facility made the decision to evacuate many of the residents. Both police officers and firefighters arrived at the scene to help relocate residents. In total, about 50 patients were relocated “to a safer and cooler location.” If an elderly loved one has been injured while in nursing home care, contact a nursing home abuse attorney

Why is air conditioning so essential for seniors? An article in The New York Times addresses air conditioning and nursing home negligence, arguing that air conditioning should be required at all nursing homes across the country. The article cites the deaths of eight patients at a nursing home in Florida last fall after the facility lost power and, as a result of the power loss, its air conditioning. According to Catherine E. DuBeau, the author of the article and a geriatrician and professor of medicine at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, air conditioning can help to prevent “illness and death among overheated elderly people whose bodies are ill equipped to deal with hyperthermic stress.”

According to DuBeau, many nursing homes in the U.S. still lack air conditioning, and if they do have it, the cooler air frequently does not extend to patient bedrooms but instead is only present in common areas. If we want to ensure senior safety, we should push for an air conditioning requirement at all nursing homes.

Tips for Selecting a Safe Nursing Home

In addition to selecting a facility that provides air conditioning for patients on the hottest days of summer, what else should families look for when choosing a nursing home? A report in The New York Times gives these tips for selecting a nursing home that is safe and reliable:

  • Take your time to consider a variety of facilities, and do not rush to a decision;
  • Do your own investigations into the backgrounds (and histories of violations or incidences of nursing home malpractice, if there are any) at the facilities you are considering, including information from websites;
  • Visit each nursing home you are considering, and visit them at various times of day including in the evenings and on the weekends when facilities tend to be more understaffed;
  • Ask the facility for a copy of its emergency management plan; and
  • Seek help from a state ombudsman if you have questions about choosing a facility or properly evaluating it.

If you have an elderly loved one who sustained injuries at a skilled nursing facility, you should speak with a nursing home abuse attorney about your options.

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