by Sandy Douglass
Methodist Home and Forest Side CEO/Administrator
[quote_right]To my dismay… nursing homes are not given any special priority by Pepco.[/quote_right]When the lights go out and the air conditioning hum stops there is one group of individuals who don’t panic, and who show more patience with the situation than the rest of us. It is our elders, those over 80 who mostly grew up without the luxury of air conditioning, who aren’t worried about when their cell phone will run out of juice or how long it will be until the television cable is back on.
As the CEO and administrator of the Methodist Home of the District of Columbia, a residential retirement community offering independent and assisted living and nursing care services, and our new facility Forest Side, a dementia and memory care facility, I have the privilege of working with these individuals every day. And they know they do not have to worry about when the power will come back on, because I am the one who will worry on their behalf. It is our fabulous staff at the Methodist Home and Forest Side who will see that each one of our residents is safe and cared for, has flashlights and areas cooled by temporary air conditioning and fans while we work to get our power restored. The Methodist Home and Forest Side were two of the six retirement communities with nursing homes that lost power during our recent storm.
And yes, we do have back-up generators to provide emergency power where it is absolutely needed for medical care and minimal lighting, no facility our size, however, can replace all the basic power to sustain our 24 hour a day operation. Health care services, meals, clean linens and laundry for over 100 people takes power from the power company! And my job is to make that clear to the provider of power – Pepco – that seniors must take priority.
To my dismay in my 20 years at the Methodist Home and the surprise of most everyone around me, nursing homes are not given any special priority by Pepco. So when the power goes out, we must get on the telephone like everyone else and work to bring attention to Pepco that the seniors in our care need the power restored. I worry about their safety in the dark, a fragile population susceptible to falls; I worry about keeping them cool, and I have to transmit this urgency to Pepco.
This time it took a team to get the message across. After working our way through the maze at Pepco, eliciting the help of our colleagues at the Department of Health and AARP, it was our elected officials: Council Members Mary Cheh and Muriel Bowser who were able to insist that nursing homes get priority assistance. After 40 hours the lights came back on, the air conditioner started to hum, and now our goal is to get a policy change in place with Pepco before the next big storm.