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Some nursing home residents are still displaced after Hurricane Ian

Orange County Fire Rescue staff evacuated hundreds of residents from Bridge and Life Care Center assisted living facilities as Hurricane Ian flooded the area.
Orange County Fire Rescue
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Orange County Fire Rescue staff evacuated hundreds of residents from Bridge and Life Care Center assisted living facilities as Hurricane Ian flooded the area.

Most of the thousands of Florida residents forced to evacuate from nursing homes as Hurricane Ian tore through the state have returned, but others are still displaced.

Of the four dozen facilities that evacuated before or during the storm, nine remain closed due to flooding and other storm damage, according to Kristen Knapp, senior director of strategy and communications with the Florida Health Care Association, which represents most of the state’s nursing homes.

The nine facilities are scattered across hard-hit areas of the state, including Southwest Florida, the Orlando area and Daytona Beach.

Residents are staying in nearby skilled nursing facilities, some of which Knapp said are owned by the same companies that manage the places they left.

“The idea there is to make sure that they're in a place that's comfortable and familiar to them, because you know for nursing home residents, many of them have complex medical needs, they have Alzheimer's or dementia,” Knapp said. “So there's always a concern about transfer trauma when you talk about evacuations.”

Knapp said staff are monitoring residents for signs of trauma throughout the transition and are working to keep them connected with their families.

State health and emergency management officials have to inspect each nursing home before it can reopen.

RELATED: Florida nursing homes evacuated 1000s before Ian hit. Some weathered the storm

Other facilities opted to hunker down for the storm, equipped with backup generators and several days’ worth of fuel. All nursing homes were required to do so as part of a state law implemented in response to the deaths of a dozen residents at a facility in Hollywood — in Broward County — five years ago, after Hurricane Irma knocked out power in the building, causing it to overheat.

Knapp said 78 nursing homes lost power during Ian and that the majority of those facilities have since had it restored.

These figures don't account for the dozens of assisted-living facilities also affected by the storm. Health News Florida reached out to the Agency for Health Care Administration but has not yet received a response.

Knapp said the Florida Health Care Association is focused on supporting facilities throughout recovery and raising funds for health workers in hard-hit areas.

“Our staff have been tremendous,” Knapp said. “Many of them sheltered in place with their residents, evacuated with their residents, while their homes were being affected.”

Those interested in contributing to FHCA's Hurricane Ian Relief Fund can submit donations on this website. WUSF also created a list of other ways Tampa Bay area residents can support people affected by Hurricane Ian.
Copyright 2022 WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7. To see more, visit WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7.

Stephanie Colombini joined WUSF Public Media in December 2016 as Producer of Florida Matters,WUSF’s public affairs show. She’s also a reporter for WUSF’s Health News Florida project.