While the rest of the family dressed up as the cast of the “Adventure Time” cartoon on Halloween, Jim Maddocks handed out candy in his son’s clothes.
But he wasn’t in costume.
The 73-year-old had only packed three outfits when Brookdale Bayshore, a waterfront assisted living facility in Tampa, evacuated ahead of Hurricane Ian.
Maddocks scrambled to stay with family in town while other residents were taken to an affiliated facility in Ocala.
He thought they’d be gone only a few days. When rain soaked parts of the building, residents learned they’d be away indefinitely.
Last week, Maddocks returned to his pottery, his poker group and his own bed after weeks of uncertainty.
Older adults who were forced to evacuate long-term care facilities are beginning to return home after Hurricane Ian, a little over a month after the Category 4 storm made landfall in Southwest Florida.
“It’s an incredible amount of time to be away from what you know,” Maddocks said.
Nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Tampa Bay and across southwest Florida evacuated ahead of the storm.
At least nine nursing homes and 22 assisted living facilities were rendered uninhabitable in the wake of Ian’s warpath, according to the Florida Health Care Association and Bulldog Strategy Group, a group that consults with assisted living facilities in the state.
Rain trickled through Bayshore Boulevard’s windows. The dining hall was flooded, and walls at risk of mold in 76 apartments, including Maddocks’ studio, needed to be stripped and replaced before residents could safely reenter.
Maddocks never had considered leaving for Brookdale Chambrel Pinecastle in Ocala, where about 50 residents remained after their facility was evacuated on Sept. 26.
Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in May, he needed to stay in Tampa for chemotherapy.
He crashed with his daughter-in-law’s mother during the week of the storm, then spent five weeks at his son’s home.
Much of his time with his son, John, and his wife, Amanda Maddocks, felt like a gift. They all grew closer, he said, and he was able to bond with his 9-year-old grandson over chess and Minecraft.
But the uncertainty was wearing. Because of the damage, Brookdale management couldn’t offer residents a return date until Oct. 13, according to emails obtained by the Tampa Bay Times.
Some unknowns remain. Brookdale automatically withdrew rent for October — roughly $3,500 — from Maddocks’ bank account, though he did not stay in one of the company’s facilities during that time.
While repairs were underway, Brookdale staff told family members they would discuss reimbursements individually after residents moved back into the building, according to documents obtained by the Times. Taylor Ellis, a company spokesperson, told the Times in an emailed statement that Brookdale was working with residents on their cases.
“It’s really just the not knowing,” Maddocks said. “Not knowing if they’re going to treat you fairly with the money, not knowing when you’re going to be back in at your home, not knowing the state of any of your belongings in your unit, not knowing when you can stop being a burden to the people who are going out of their way to help you out.”
On move-in day, Jim and his son pulled their luggage cart and squeezed into an elevator with a man who also was wheeling belongings down from the third floor.
“You guys moving back, or moving out?” John asked him.
“Well, unfortunately my mom passed away while she was up in Ocala,” the man said. “It was kind of an unfortunate — a not totally unexpected thing — but still tough.”
The doors opened to a piano playing before dinnertime. Two women, assisted by walkers, boarded the elevator as the trio undocked.
“We’ve certainly been through an ordeal, haven’t we?” Jane Rivers asked her fellow passenger with a smile.
The 90-year-old said she didn’t have much time to prepare for the evacuation to Ocala.
She lucked out at the sister facility. For most of her stay she didn’t have a roommate, while most evacuees shared a room.
“It was just the drama of displacement,” said Rivers. “I found out at lunch and I had 30 minutes to pack up. I had probably five outfits, one pair of shoes and a toothbrush. You realize what you can do without.”
Before joining familiar faces in the dining hall, Jim Maddocks walked his son out. They hugged beneath a large, black and gold “Welcome Home” banner adorning the front entrance.
“Thank you so much, for everything,” he told his son with a smile. “I’d say we have to do it again, but … under different circumstances.”
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Tampa Bay Times Hurricane Ian coverage
FEMA: Floridians hurt by Ian can now apply for FEMA assistance. Here’s how.
HOW RELIABLE ARE HURRICANE MODELS? Hurricane Ian gave us some answers.
POST-STORM QUESTIONS: After Hurricane Ian, how to get help with fallen trees, food, damaged shelter.
MORE STORM COVERAGE: Get ready and stay informed at tampabay.com/hurricane.