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Toll-Free Helpline Assists Hurricane-Devastated Seniors, Their Families

SEATTLE, Nov. 7, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- When Hurricane Sandy left Gail Goldstein shivering alone in her townhouse without power, the 72-year-old tried to warm herself by igniting her gas stove.  She fell ill from the carbon monoxide.

"That's when I knew that even though she had been saying she was all right despite the hurricane, she couldn't stay in her home by herself," said her daughter Sylvia Kurinsky, 44, who lives in Seattle, Wash, three thousand miles from Goldstein's home in Ocean Township, N.J.  At that distance, there wasn't much Kurinsky could do.  Her sister resides in Manhattan, but the storm trapped her there, so she was also unable to help.

Kurinsky contacted Emeritus Senior Living, which has established a toll-free Hurricane Sandy helpline specially designed to assist seniors and their families in coping with the storm's aftermath.  Emeritus staff drove an hour and a half to Goldstein's home, picked her up and brought her to one of their senior living communities.  "It was wonderful," Goldstein said of having heat, hot meals and a warm place to stay after a long time in the cold and dark.  That experience, she said, "was terrible, just terrible."

The helpline, 1-888-527-5135, is a free service offered to families nationwide who are concerned about senior loved ones in hurricane-affected areas of New Jersey and New York.  Emeritus which is the nation's largest assisted living provider, operates 24 senior living communities in the two states. It has assigned the Emeritus Safety NET (Nurse Emergency Team) to work in New Jersey and New York, directly assisting seniors suffering in the storm's wake. The Emeritus Safety NET is comprised of eight registered nurses, other specialists and support staff.

By calling the helpline, families can ask that the Emeritus Safety NET contact senior loved ones and assist them in finding a safe living environment.  They can also ask questions and obtain advice, resources and referrals on the many issues that are arising for seniors and their families in Sandy's aftermath.  The team is coordinating with area health departments, emergency management agencies, the American Red Cross and other organizations.

Since shortly after the storm, the Emeritus Safety NET has been assisting seniors isolated in their homes and who are at shelters.  Even before formally setting up the national helpline, Emeritus had fielded over a thousand phone calls from the public and provided direct assistance to dozens of seniors.

"The impact of the hurricane has been especially severe for seniors, because losing their home, being evacuated, or going without power is much harder for them," said Michele Hughes, vice president of operations for Emeritus in the northeastern U.S.  "The shelters are doing a wonderful job, but they are not equipped to care for seniors who need assistance with personal hygiene.  The general public shelters are not set up to care for those on oxygen for extended periods of time and many seniors may have left their medications behind or can't obtain refills. A number of seniors still in their homes rely on health aides who are not able to come in the wake of Sandy."

Numerous seniors have gone to live, at least temporarily, with their adult children, which can present serious issues.

"Their children may not have experience in caring for a senior and they haven't planned for it," Hughes said.  "In the rush to evacuate, their parents may have left important paperwork behind, such as identification, financial documents, and other crucial items.  Their parents may also be experiencing anxiety from having to leave their longtime home.  The helpline and our Emeritus Safety NET on-the-ground team are designed to assist seniors and their families with the myriad important challenges that are emerging."

For seniors needing a place to live, either temporarily or on a longer-term basis, the Emeritus Safety NET will assist in finding a suitable place, whether at an Emeritus Senior Living community or elsewhere, if it better suits their needs.  Emeritus is offering a short-stay program with special rates to seniors affected by Hurricane Sandy.  The Emeritus communities provide a range of services from retirement and assisted living to memory care.

"As the nation's largest assisted living provider, we seek to be a resource to families and the public as a whole," Hughes said.  "Establishing the helpline reflects our principle of 'safely somewhere,' which means we do the most we can to ensure that each senior is residing in a safe environment that meets his or her needs."

More details on the helpline as well as links to additional resources in New Jersey and New York, tips on senior care, and related information are available at www.Emeritus.com/help.

About Emeritus Senior Living
Emeritus Senior Living is the nation's largest memory care and assisted living provider, with the ability to serve nearly 50,000 residents. More than 28,000 employees support more than 470 communities throughout 44 states coast to coast. Emeritus offers the spectrum of senior residential choices, care options and life enrichment programs that fulfill individual needs and promote purposeful living throughout the aging process. Its experts provide insights on senior living, care, wellness, brain health, caregiving and family topics at www.Emeritus.com, which also offers details on the organization's services. Emeritus is based in Seattle, Wash.; its common stock is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol ESC.

CONTACT: Audrey Knoth / Scott McCaskey, (757) 625-2518

SOURCE Emeritus Senior Living

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