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Iowa Lawmakers Defeat Bill Requiring Testing for Dementia Skills

February 17, 2016

Iowa lawmakers have defeated a bill that would have required Iowa direct-care workers to complete a state-approved evaluation to determine whether they are sufficiently competent in providing dementia-specific care.

The bill (pdf), introduced to the Iowa House earlier this month, would have applied to all staff who work at nursing facilities or home care agencies that provide services to people with dementia.

Staff would have had to receive dementia-specific training that incorporated “principles of person-centered dementia care including through recognition of the individual’s unique abilities and needs,” the bill said.

They would then have been required to pass a competency evaluation ensuring that they were equipped to provide dementia care based on the skills they learned. Both the initial training and the evaluation would have to be approved by the state Department of Inspections and Appeals.

Currently, Iowa law only requires nursing facility inspectors receive dementia training. A 2015 fact sheet (pdf) from Justice in Aging reports that Iowa is one of 23 states to have a law mandating dementia training in nursing homes for at least some types of staff, with varying degrees of success.

For example, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health has issued citations to more than 50 nursing homes for failing to adequately train their workers in dementia care despite specifically advertising their ability to provide such care.

In Iowa, advocates for people with dementia said that, while many Iowa nursing homes and home care agencies already voluntarily provide dementia training, it hasn’t been successful.

“Current dementia training isn’t working in this state,” Noah Tabor, a lobbyist for the Alzheimer’s Association told the Des Moines Register on February 15, before the bill was defeated. “It’s not the fault of facilities; it’s not the fault of workers; it’s just not working.”

Nursing home administrators, meanwhile, successfully argued that the bill would have created an unnecessarily burdensome regulation.

— by Matthew Ozga

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