Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Storm Forces Senior Care Centers to Take on Extra Patients

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Storm Forces Senior Care Centers to Take on Extra Patients

Article excerpt

From delivering meals and medical supplies to ensuring caregivers make it to work, serving North Jersey's elderly grew increasingly challenging Thursday, even prompting families to temporarily place older relatives in nursing homes.

In all, 13 long-term care centers have been evacuated in New Jersey since Hurricane Sandy left behind a trail of devastation on Monday, including Woodcliff Lake Rehabilitation Center and Villa Marie Claire Hospice in Saddle River. Many of the ones open -- even those on backup power -- have been filling up with "emergency" admissions of patients coming from at-capacity hospitals or homes with no power or access to needed services, officials said.

Power outages and gasoline supply remained big hurdles to the agencies and businesses that care for the elderly. Para-transit programs in the region began rationing the rides to seniors, offering only trips to dialysis clinics and other critical medical appointments. Some Meals on Wheels volunteers had to back out of their commitments Thursday because they didn't have enough gasoline in their cars.

The conditions at a 100-unit low-income senior citizen building in Hillsdale grew increasingly worrisome by Thursday, when its operators began preparing contingency plans for a possible evacuation. Only 20 of the 120 residents were able to relocate to the homes of relatives or friends, and the rest are low on non- perishable food and can't cook on their electric stoves.

"We have a dire situation," said Valeria Hartman, executive vice president of Emerald Management Corp., the agency that operates the 25-year-old building on Piermont Avenue.

Hartman said she told county and town officials the building only had enough fuel to last another day or two. She was told shelters were filling up and transportation would be limited, but that officials might get them gasoline today for the generators that are supplying heat, hot water, emergency lights and a working elevator.

Many of the residents are disabled, in their 80s and are unable to drive, and the building is located in a remote section of town, with no nearby stores to walk to, Hartman said. …

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