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Assisted Living

Assisted Living Disaster Preparation and Communication Resource Guide

More than 800,000 elderly citizens in the United States are currently living in the care of an assisted living facility. Natural disasters pose increased risks to those living in this type of facility because of the care that they require. Additionally, people living in these facilities may be at an increased risk for health hazards such as heart attacks, falls, or illness. 

Having a well-thought-out disaster response plan as well as proper communication infrastructure in place is imperative within these kinds of care facilities. Due to the level of care required by its residents, assisted living centers need to be equipped with backup communication in the event that landlines, cell phones and the internet experience a disruption in service. Here we’ll give you the information you need to prepare for an emergency and equip your center with the proper devices to ensure connectivity no matter what.  

What is an assisted living facility?

Assisted living facilities offer a system of housing and limited care that is designed for senior citizens who need some assistance, but do not require care in a nursing home. According to seniorcare.com, the typical resident is a widowed woman in her 80s. 

Though these residents are typically mobile, they do require help with some activities associated with daily living and are unable to care for themselves independently. Many take multiple medications. Therefore, round-the-clock supervision and assistance are provided.

Risks Associated with Assisted Living During a Natural Disaster

Assisted living residents become a vulnerable population when a natural disaster occurs. Because the people living in these facilities cannot perform all necessary daily functions on their own, it is much more challenging, and sometimes impossible, for them to move to a safer location before the disaster strikes. For example, according to the CDC, more than 70 percent of the people who died as a result of Hurricane Katrina were elderly.

Elderly populations receiving care in these facilities need to be able to know that they will be well taken care of no matter what may occur. This means being able to continue to have access to their medications and other necessities and be confident knowing there is safe shelter for them to wait out the disaster or in the aftermath if sheltering-in-place is not the best option. 

there is safe shelter for them to wait out the disaster or in the aftermath if sheltering-in-place is not the best option. 

Some of the most common reasons that assisted living residents are more at risk during an emergency include:

  1. Chronic conditions are more common at this age making mobility a challenge
  2. Elderly populations often require certain medications provided to them at a particular time. In a facility, the residents often rely on caregivers to provide them their medications and may not have access to them on their own.
  3. Transportation is a concern because most assisted living residents don’t drive and therefore rely on someone else to remove them from a potentially dangerous situation.
  4. Power outages can create a crisis situation since continuation of care is necessary

In order to be able to follow through in caring appropriately for their residents in these types of situations, assisted living facilities have a responsibility to have a proper disaster plan in place.

Assisted Living Center Disaster Preparedness

So how can assisted living centers ensure that they are ready for anything so they can keep their residents safe no matter what kind of emergency may occur?

Have a Plan

One of the best ways for assisted living facilities to prevent casualties in an emergency situation to have a proper emergency response plan in place. 

It is imperative that these centers have a disaster plan that includes training staff members and making them aware of what their role is in carrying out the crisis-response. Different scenarios require different decisions, so it’s important to know when shelter-in-place is the right choice versus evacuation. Though you can’t always plan for every situation that may occur, it’s necessary for staff to be properly trained in as many foreseen scenarios as possible so that residents can be given the best care. 

Fires, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, etc. are all disasters that can affect assisted living facilities. This is also dependent on where the facility is located. These types of natural disasters can be scary, but their presence can be handled much better when a specific plan is in place and each staff member knows what her/his responsibility is. 

This Emergency Preparedness Checklist can get you started in determining if you have everything well planned out in order to respond quickly in a crisis situation.

Have the Right Essentials

Natural disasters often lead to power outages and can make communication a problem. Quick evacuation may also have to occur. To ensure safety, having the proper gear ready ahead of time is important. We’ve put together the following checklist so you can ensure you have everything you need in the event that an emergency does occur.

Assisted Living Safety Checklist

We’ve listed the top 7 essentials that can help in an emergency situation at an assisted living facility. We also recommend that you download and print our full assisted living checklist.

  1. Satellite Phone – Natural disasters often lead to downed phone lines and cell towers, making a simple phone call impossible. Every assisted living should have, at a bare minimum, one satellite phone on site so that outside calls and texts are possible. However, with many families needing to be reached and emergency help needing to be spoken to, having several satellite phones available is usually necessary. We recommend the Iridium 9555 with its complementary docking station so that the phone is charged up at all times.
  2. First Aid Kit – Having multiple well-stocked first aid kits is something that every assisted facility should have. 
  3. Emergency Generator – A generator provides electrical power in the event that the primary electrical supply is disrupted due to a power outage. Some states require assisted living centers to have generators so it’s important to check with your state’s regulations. Even if it’s not required, it can help protect vulnerable individuals.
  4. Additional Food and Water – It is recommended that there be enough food and water on site at all times to provide 3-5 days’ worth for every resident.
  5. Medications – Many assisted living residents take multiple medications. It is the responsibility of the assisted living facility to have the a week’s worth of back-up medications available for each resident in the event of an emergency.
  6. Flashlights – Several flashlights should be available around the assisted living facility and it’s important that staff knows where to locate them. Having back-up batteries available will also be necessary.
  7. Waterproof Container for Documents – In order to keep residents’ records and important documents safe during transport, keeping them in a waterproof container is important. 

Download Full Assisted Living Checklist Here

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Best Satellite Devices for Assisted Living​

Since elderly people are at a higher risk of serious injury or illness, it is important for them to have an emergency plan in place. Having a satellite phone is imperative so communication can be made to receive help in the event that cell phones or the internet are not receiving a signal. With so many people in one place within an assisted living center, if communication cannot be made, this can put them in danger.

The following are a few of the top satellite phones and devices we recommend to ensure that communication is always possible.

9555 Docking Station:

Applied Satellite Engineering, a leader in satellite communications, provides a unique solution for using your 9555 Iridium satellite phone indoors and outdoors. Just dock your Iridium phone in our docking station and you can access satellite communications with standard analog phone sets or your company’s PBX system. When you need to leave the office, just un-dock your handset and take it with you. Never be out of touch again!

Iridium 9555 Docking Station,POTS, Privacy Handset
Iridium 9555 Satellite Phone front

Iridium 9555 Satellite Phone Complete Kit

The Iridium 9555 is an excellent choice for a satellite phone that you can count on for reliable mobile communication. In the event that cell phones and landlines are rendered useless, this small form factor satellite phone will provide the voice and text capability you’ll require.

Explorer 710

At the forefront of a new era of high speed ultra-portable satellite streaming BGAN terminal, EXPLORER 710 is a sophisticated communication tool for broadcasting and other IP based industry applications. EXPLORER 710 provides streaming rates over 650 kbps out of the box, when using new high data rate streaming.With EXPLORER 710, you can leverage the fastest on-demand video streaming via satellite with guaranteed QoS to enhance the quality of live broadcasts and remote communication.

Cobham Explorer 710

A Day in the Life at an Assisted Living Community

Assisted Living FAQ​

Most frequent questions and answers on Assisted Living

An assisted living facility is a residential program for individuals who need help with daily activities, such as personal care, mobility, medications, meal preparation or household chores, but who do not require skilled nursing care. Assisted living programs strive to create a home-like setting that promotes independence. Nursing homes are designed for people who need daily nursing care. These facilities have nursing staff available 24 hours a day, and have a range of services (social work, occupational and physical therapies, etc.) to meet the residents’ health care needs.

The cost varies from about $1,000 to $6,000 per month, depending on the facility’s physical features, size, location and the services provided.

Assisted living facilities are licensed to provide care at one of three levels. The levels correspond to the amount of care the resident needs. Level One is for residents who need a low level of assistance. Level Two represents moderate care needs, while Level Three designates a high level of care. An example of a resident at Level Three is a resident with dementia who needs help with all daily activities, and has a complex schedule of medications. Homes that are licensed for Level Two or Three may admit residents who need care at lower levels.

If your loved one is assessed as Level One when they are admitted to the facility, they can continue to live there when their health declines as long as their care needs are not greater than the highest level of care for which the facility is licensed. If, however, your loved one needs Level Three care but the facility is only licensed for Level Two, your loved one would need to move to an assisted living facility that is licensed at Level Three, or possibly transfer to a nursing home. In some cases, the facility may choose to apply to the state for a waiver so that your loved one could stay in the facility.

First, choose the facility that is right for your parents. Carefully read the Resident Agreement, the contract that lists all the services that will be provided, the fees and the responsibilities of all parties. Make sure you understand what services are provided and all of the fees that may be charged. Ask their physician to complete a physical assessment form and submit it to the assisted living facility you have chosen. Make sure the facility is licensed for the level of care your parents need. Once these steps are taken, all the documents are signed and any initial fees are paid, your parents may move in when there is a vacancy.

Some assisted living facilities provide respite care, that is, short-term care that allows the family or other care providers to take a break from care giving. The individual may receive up to 30 days per year of respite care in an assisted living facility; those days may be used either continuously or intermittently. Fees for this service vary.

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