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Vulnerable Seniors Left in Gaps as Hurricane Season Looms



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Rosie Powell, a 71-year-old resident at Palisades of Inwood, finds herself enduring the scorching Texas summer without air conditioning for nearly a month. Despite being in a senior living complex, Powell’s circumstances shed light on the gaps in care for vulnerable seniors as hurricane season approaches.

Palisades of Inwood, an independent living community in North Houston, falls outside the regulatory purview that mandates storm preparedness for medical care facilities like nursing homes and assisted living centers. While Texas Health and Human Services sets guidelines for the latter, independent living communities like Palisades of Inwood lack such requirements, leaving seniors like Powell without necessary safeguards.

Houston Council member, Charlene Cook, expresses concern over the dearth of accountability in many independent living complexes, highlighting the potential risks faced by elderly residents, especially in emergencies like the impending hurricane season. The absence of mandated preparedness measures puts vulnerable seniors at increased risk during natural disasters.

Powell and several of her neighbors lost AC on June 7, prompting worries about the health implications, particularly for those with underlying medical conditions. Despite receiving portable AC units from the landlord, the relief proves inadequate against Houston’s sweltering heat, intensifying the challenges faced by elderly residents like Powell.

Charlene Cook, holding a Master’s in Public Health, underscores the heightened risks seniors face during extended power outages, emphasizing the dangers of dehydration, especially in humid conditions. With recent storms causing power outages across Houston, the community witnessed the vulnerabilities of senior care facilities, raising concerns about the preparedness for severe weather events.

Chuck Lalonde, a senior vice president at Cantex Continuing Care Network, underscores the rigorous regulations imposed on medical care facilities, ensuring readiness for emergencies like hurricanes. However, the high costs associated with such facilities often render them unaffordable for many seniors, leading them to opt for independent living communities.

Independent living communities like Houston Heights Tower, managed by Linda Holder, offer affordable housing options for seniors but lack the same level of medical care as specialized facilities. Despite limitations in medical assistance, Holder asserts that basic provisions like extra food, water, and cooling centers are in place to support residents during power outages.

Hope Aguirre, the property manager at Houston Heights Tower, recounts the challenges faced during the recent power outage after the derecho in May. With residents’ safety in mind, she took proactive measures by relocating those on higher floors to lower levels within the building.

Charlene Cook of the Houston Council indicates plans to explore local policies to regulate independent living communities, emphasizing the need for minimum standards of care to ensure the safety and well-being of elderly residents in such facilities. As hurricane season looms, the spotlight remains on the preparedness and protection of vulnerable seniors in independent living settings.

Rachel Adams

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