• Jake Kielmeyer

Georgia House Bill 987: What it is and why Other States Should Follow

On Friday, February 28th in a nearly unanimous vote, the Georgia statehouse passed House Bill 987, a bill that will increase safety requirements, fines, and training requirements for senior care facilities.

The bill has the following components:

Long-Term Care Facilities:

  • Impose a $2,000 per day fine for each violation of the long-term care facility up to $40,000

  • Mandatory fine of $5,000 for causing serious physical harm to a resident in a facility

  • An on-site staffing ratio of one direct care person for every 15 residents

Memory Care Centers:

  • A requirement for one direct staff person per 12 residents to always be available

  • One registered nurse must be available at all times

  • All staff, regardless of their role, must complete 4 hours of dementia-specific training before the end of their first week of work

  • Orientation will include

  • Basic information on Alzheimer’s and other forms of Dementia

  • How to create a safe environment for residents that reduce difficult behavior

  • How to identify residents with Alzheimer’s and other forms of Dementia

  • How to successfully communicate with memory care residents

  • Direct care providers must complete a minimum of 16 hours of Dementia/Alzheimer’s specific training

I am a fan of how this bill expands on Georgia’s previous care facility bill to provide additional protections and impose larger fines. The bill’s inclusion of extended training for care providers who work in memory care facilities is a good example of proactive steps being taken at the state level to prepare care centers for the influx of Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients in the coming years. As the number of people in the United States with Alzheimer’s and other forms of Dementia, continues to increase other states will likely be following Georgia’s lead and create better protections for seniors in these facilities and ensure that staff is adequately trained to handle Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients. In the future, we will likely see similar legislation proposed at the Federal level in the form of amendments to the 1987 Federal Nursing Home Reform Act. The act states that all care facilities accepting Medicaid and Medicare support “must provide services and activities to attain or maintain the highest practicable physical, mental, and psychosocial well-being of each resident in accordance with a written plan of care.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if in the coming years the act is expanded by adding Alzheimer’s and Dementia specific requirements like those in the Georgia House Bill. Alzheimer's is, unfortunately, an illness that will be increasing its impact on our care system, but, that does not mean we have to sit idly by and watch. By increasing funding for research, and passing legislation to improve the quality of care for those living with the disease we can make a difference.

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