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Elderly, Nursing Home Residents Threatened in Aftermath of Andrew With PM-Hurricane

August 31, 1992

Elderly, Nursing Home Residents Threatened in Aftermath of Andrew With PM-Hurricane Aftermath, Bjt

MIAMI (AP) _ Three elderly people who died while being evacuated from their Dade County nursing home may be only the first such fatalities from Hurricane Andrew and its aftermath, nursing home managers said.

With no electricity and scarce fuel for generators to keep life-support systems running, even nursing homes that escaped destruction have been hard- pressed to provide for patients.

″Every nursing home in Miami is beyond their licensed capacity,″ said Michael Alexander, who owns a Dade nursing home serving as a supply depot for ice, water, clothing and fuel for facilities for the elderly.

At least 700 nursing home residents were displaced when at least 10 nursing homes were severely damaged or destroyed by the hurricane Monday, the Florida Health Care Association said. About 10,000 more elderly who lived alone may be homeless as well and their normal support services, such as the corner store, are gone, said Dade County’s Alliance for Aging.

Dade County has more than 360,000 people over 60 years old and about 18 percent of them live at or below the poverty level. Those people are particularly in danger, said Debbie Kleinberg, program director of the alliance.

Antoinette Scribner, 69, lived alone despite suffering a stroke last month and survived for four days with friends after the hurricane knocked out power and water to her apartment complex. By Saturday, exhausted, confused and without her medicine, she ended up in a Red Cross shelter, her name and address written with a black marker on her arm.

″I am worried. I get dehydrated very rapidly and I don’t have much stamina,″ she said, complaining of chest pain as she waited for a doctor at a busy shelter. ″I don’t like it. I want to get back in my apartment and do my things.″

Some people were moved almost 100 miles north to Belle Glade, said Alexander, whose Miami Gardens Care Centre accepted 23 patients in a seven- ambulance convoy last week from the Homestead Manor Nursing Home.

″They had been three days without proper nutrition, air conditioning or adequate water. They’re very lucky to be alive,″ he said.

The three who died were among 174 residents who rode out the storm in the corridors of the Gramercy Park Nursing Center, said administrator Jim Conway.

Manuel Rodriguez, 69, Fannie Lytle, 94, and Anice Berett, 81, survived while wind and rain stripped their rooms to shells, but succumbed to heart complications Monday during an evacuation on county buses that took 18 hours, according to Conway and coroner’s reports.

″None of them were in strong physical states to begin with. That was part of the reason for us being at the facility during the storm,″ Conway said. ″Under the best of circumstances, there is going to be some transfer trauma - and to do it under the circumstances we did, I’m heartbroken.″

The Coral Gables Convalescent Center survived the storm. But without electricity, caring for 77 residents has become increasingly difficult, said director John Steinmeyer.

″It’s hot. We have no power. We soak them down with cool water, but ice only lasts so long,″ he said. ″We’re having a lot of trouble reaching doctors. Hospitals are full. And beeper lines are down.″

One resident died of natural causes and others are ″desperately ill,″ but downed phone lines have prevented the staff from reaching their families, Steinmeyer said.

″We’re doing everything we can.″

Elderly people who live alone also are vulnerable in the hurricane’s aftermath, especially with temperatures hitting 90 degrees, Kleinberg said.

″There are many people out there that are very isolated and in need of water,″ Kleinberg said. ″Even just being in a shelter by themselves, unable to contact family members, is very stressful.″

Despite the physical threats, some older people dealt better with the emotional toll than younger people, said Terry Cuson, development director at Dade’s Family Counseling Services.

″They’ve lived through a lot of things and can accept it,″ Cuson said. ″They know none of this was anybody’s fault, and that God isn’t punishing anybody.″

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