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A Harrowing Assisted Living Hurricane Tale from Puerto Rico

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By Carolina Ortiz-Rosso

As bad as the hurricane damage has been in Texas and Florida it is nothing compared to what hit Puerto Rico and the rest of the Caribbean. This is a scary sad tale.

3:00 am: Wednesday, September 20:  The Insignia Senior Living’s executive team is already in place at their San Juan assisted living community; Miramar Living woke up to a swaying building.

4:00 am: The building began to flood through the roof and the street. Water was coming in at alarming rates, and the entire team rallied to dry the building as best they could. They placed buckets under the leaking roof, and pushed the water out to the street with squeegees. These turned out to be futile attempts. Water was coming in, and there was no way to stop it.

5:30 am: The ceiling of the 3rd floor living room collapsed. The Category 4 hurricane’s eye was moving close to the city where the community is located, and the roaring wind made that very clear. The executive team decided; they needed to evacuate the 68 residents away from their rooms and to a hallway with no windows.

Associates woke the few residents who were still sleeping and moved everyone to safety hand-in-hand. The elevator wasn’t safe; therefore, residents who weren’t able to walk had to be carried down the stairs. It wasn’t easy, but getting everyone to safety was the #1 priority. Everything else, including the flooding, could be dealt with later.  

Once safe, residents were comforted by their caregivers. The storm was loud and scary, and no one was entirely sure when the worst would hit, and tensions were high. There was a powerful sense of unity and safety that bonded the group.

11:00 am: The worst was over and the storm was moving on. They still had Wifi and were able to confirm that the storm had moved on. They began the process of moving residents residents back to their rooms, where they were fed and cared for throughout the remainder of the storm.

The Aftermath

It was then that the arduous work began. Caring for seniors is in Insignia’s DNA, but dealing with feet of rising water doesn’t come so easily. The team worked for hours to push water out, to dry the floors, windows and ceiling. Finally, the storm was gone, but the aftermath for the island is catastrophic.

The situation in Puerto Rico is dire. Food, water, electricity and basic needs are hard to come by for many. Fortunately, our three communities are safe and have enough stock to keep our residents safe and joyful, but not everyone is as lucky. Many associates stayed for days in the communities to make sure they were available to care for the residents during the storm. Some of them still haven’t been able to speak to their family members to know their well-being. Insignia’s communications are limited as well. Slowly, but surely, things are improving, but there’s a lot of work to be done, and the island needs help.

To find out how to support Puerto Rico, visit: Hurricane Maria Relief

 

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