Thursday, December 6, 2012

Seasons Greetings

I hope that you are all enjoying a happy and healthy holiday season. This year, in the aftermath of the one of the greatest natural disasters in our state’s history, I know that many of us are very thankful for our state’s excellent response to Hurricane Sandy and all the devastation that the storm left in its wake.

Unfortunately, studies show that vulnerable elderly citizens suffer inordinately in natural disasters and that mortality rates in long term care tend to increase following widespread evacuations. While the long-term effect of Hurricane Sandy on the state’s senior population cannot be known at this time,  government agencies in New Jersey in partnership with the senior-serving provider community were incredibly well prepared for this devastating event.

In the days and weeks following the disaster, OOIE staff and volunteers checked on conditions in facilities that had lost power or that had been forced to evacuate residents. Our staff found that long-term care facilities did everything they could to ensure quality care and continuity of services during those critical days and nights after the storm hit.

Now we must be vigilant about another unfortunate Sandy after-effect:  the prevalence of disaster-related scams. According to the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, it is not uncommon for unscrupulous home improvement contractors to try to take advantage of people seeking home repairs following a disaster. In addition, fraudulent charities sometimes pop up seeking donations, never to be seen or heard from again.

Vulnerable senior citizens are very often easy targets for these scammers. They don’t have to be: information about how to avoid disaster scams is available at the New Jersey Consumer Affairs Division website or by calling the Division at 800-242-5846.

Warm wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a happy New Year.

- James W. McCracken, LTC Ombudsman

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