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Massachusetts Bill Would Require Dementia Training for Nursing Home Aides and Supervisors

February 16, 2012

Legislation proposed in Massachusetts would require that direct-care workers employed by nursing homes and their supervisors, as well as activity directors, be trained in dementia care.

Should the bill pass, the law would apply to all licensed nursing homes in the state regardless of whether the facility markets itself as having specialized dementia-care units.

Facilities that have special dementia care units would — for the first time — be required to adhere to minimum standards to “ensure safety and quality of services,” which would be set by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health in consultation with the Massachusetts Alzheimer’s Association and representatives from the nursing home provider community.

Activity programs geared specifically to people with dementia would also be mandated by the law for facilities that have dementia care units, as well as guidelines for the physical design of the unit.

Under the proposed law, such facilities would be responsible for disclosing to consumers and the state public health department exactly what services their specialized dementia care units provided.

According to a Boston Globe article, a 2005 federal report indicated that 44 states had requirements for “training, staffing, security, and other areas” for facilities that provide dementia care services.

While similar legislation has been proposed for the past seven years, it never passed. These bills were opposed by the industry because they “stipulated specific staffing levels for dementia care units,” according to the article. It notes that the Massachusetts Senior Care Association, an industry group, supports the current legislation since it does not have minimum staffing level provisions.

A provision in the bill, titled An Act Relative to Dementia Patients in Long-Term Care Facilities, states that any regulations promulgated to implement it “may not be used as a basis for higher reimbursement rates” for the licensed homes.

— by Deane Beebe

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