Before it opened earlier this year, the general contractor who built Lexington Place Senior Living assured the owners: “This baby is not going anywhere.”
Located about a mile from the Indian River North, the Mediterranean-style structure housed some 60 residents in addition to staff as Hurricane Irma hit. Sure enough, the nursing home showed little to no sign of damage.
“We know that we are on a very high point in New Smyrna Beach, so we did not evacuate,” said Cindy Campbell, director of operations for Concordis Senior Living, which owns and manages Lexington Place. There’s that and the fact that the building is solid concrete, she said.
“We built it on purpose because we know where we are and we wanted to make sure that we could (stay) in place if we had a storm like this one. And it served its purpose.”
Every nursing home and assisted living facility faced a similar choice as the threat of Irma became clear. Many local administrators said that the decision can be consequential. In Broward County, eight nursing home residents died in the wake of the hurricane. The facility — The Rehabilitation Center at Hollywood Hills — had lost electricity and residents were living without air conditioning, according to news reports.
Eleanor Gustavsson, the administrator of AmeriCare Assisted Living in Deltona, learned what that can be like. The 45-bed facility lost power last year after Hurricane Matthew skirted up Florida’s east coast. They were without power for five days, she said.
“It was rough but we managed,” Gustavsson said, “And we got through fine. No injuries, no nothing. Everything went as smooth as could be.”
After Irma, the power came on less than 24 hours after going out around 10 p.m. Sunday, she said. They have backup generators and a gas stove. Gustavsson said having a plan to keep electricity is a requirement by the state for facilities that choose not to relocate patients.
The 175-acre campus of John Knox Village was only partially powered up as of late Wednesday afternoon. Half of the campus is on generator power and another portion was restored because facilities are located in different parts of the electrical grid, said Joe Trainor, executive director at John Knox Village.
“The residents are doing well. Of course not as well as we’ll all be doing when the power comes back on,” Trainor said. “We feel like we got kicked into the Stone Age.”