The Commissioner for Older People has called on health trusts to pull out all the stops for 250 residents of private care homes which are closing across Northern Ireland.
The closure of seven Four Seasons Health Care homes due to financial losses, announced on Tuesday, will also affect 393 staff.
The homes – due to close by February – are in Garvagh, Antrim, Armagh, Donaghcloney, Ballynahinch, and Victoria Park and Stormont in Belfast.
Health Minister Simon Hamilton has now halted plans to close 10 statutory residential care homes to accommodate the residents.
Evelyn Hoy, chief executive of the Commissioner for Older People, said: “This is obviously disappointing news that seven care homes are closing, homes that people have lived in for years.
“Health and social care trusts involved will need to work hard to ensure almost 250 residents are given alternative choices that are as good as, or better than, their current arrangements.”
Four Seasons said there is a national shortage of nurses, leading to reliance on agency nurses at higher costs.
Ms Hoy said the Health and Social Care (HSC) Board and Health Minister must look at care home subsidies to see if they are adequate.
Roberta Shannon, whose husband is in the Four Seasons Victoria Park home in Belfast, said she was “absolutely devastated”.
She received a letter from the company telling her the February closure gave her “plenty of time” to find alternative accommodation, which she described as “an insult”.
“It’s not a matter of finding a bed, it’s a matter of finding a place that’s suitable to cope,” she told the Nolan Show.
“My husband has Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s – that upheaval sends [that] into a further level and we never get that back. This is going to affect his health.
“There’s no-one addressing any of this.”
Mr Hamilton said some statutory homes earmarked for closure would now reopen.
He said: “We want to get these 254 residents into the most appropriate accommodation for them, whether that’s in the statutory sector or the independent sector.
“It’s important that we get them, with the minimum amount of disruption, into the new accommodation as quickly as we possibly can.
“There are some homes that had been earmarked for closure that are going to be kept and reopened for new admissions.”
The Department of Health said Mr Hamilton had been aware of the broader financial challenges faced by the company across the UK for some time but only received “confirmation” of the Ulster closures on Tuesday.