Massachusetts Law Mandates New Guidelines for Dementia Care
A new law passed by the Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick will create minimum standards of care for dementia patients in the Commonwealth. For nursing homes this means a stricter set of regulations will be imposed and must be met in order to have a designated specific dementia and Alzheimer’s ward.
For many families choosing Skilled Nursing Facilities or Nursing Homes for their loved ones, these new regulations will help them find the best facility available. Currently, there is no mandated staff training or specific requirements for a nursing home to treat dementia patients. Advocates such as the Alzheimer’s Association of Massachusetts and New Hampshire have long called for increased scrutiny within nursing homes—especially those who treat dementia patients.
Dementia is formally known as, the chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes marked by memory disorders, personality changes and decreased reasoning abilities. Patients with this disease can typically exhibit erratic and aggressive behavior due to their frequent bouts of confusion. Many have been known to have verbal or physical altercations with staff, or attempt to escape the confines of their care facility. Many nursing homes or rehab facilities who provide care for this specific patient population don’t have qualified staff or an environment that best supports the needs of these patients.
The lack of regulations concerning staff training and facility resources has long worried families and advocacy groups such as the AAMNH. The Department of Public Health, partnered with AAMND has recently announced the basic frameworks for the new regulations. Critical benchmarks of the new guidelines are set to be around staff training, facility design and patient-to-staff ratio. Nursing homes will have from 90-180 days to comply with the new standards on staff education and training. Other benchmark
All licensed nursing homes must meet the minimum standards of care—even if they do not include a specific dementia unit—including:
- All staff must be trained on dementia care
- An initial 8-hour training must be completed by all direct-car workers, followed by 4 hours annually
- Specialized units must also have an activities schedule for patients, up to 8 hours per day 7 days a week
- Units must also offer night-activities, should they become necessary
But what does this mean for patients and their families? These requirements will alleviate some of the challenges that come with working with residents whom have Alzheimer’s or dementia. So in turn, relieving stress for patients and their families. It will also help many families choose the right nursing home for their loved one—as there will be strict expectation for specialized units.
New regulations will help untrained staff learn the appropriate way to approach patients. Staff members that assist in emergency situations will also be trained, leaving no room for error or mistreatment depending on shift.
These new regulations should give families, patients and care givers a sense of ease—as they will now have set group of standards by which to judge nursing homes. These standards bring peace of mind, but also better care for many patients—which is the truly the most important thing in the end.