Nursing Home Quality Care Act introduced

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    By Kay Kaylor
    SUN Columnist
    For San Juan Basin Area Agency on Aging (SJBAAA), I am not only a part-time long-term care ombudsman, advocating for residents at Pine Ridge, a 24-hour extended care home, and BeeHive, an assisted living residence. I also am an aging and disability resource specialist and Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP) and State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) counselor. Information on the many aging and care concerns will be included here.
    On Nov. 22, U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Sen. Richard Blumenthal introduced the Quality Care for Nursing Home Residents Act of 2019 as H.R. 5216 and S. 2943. They were joined by 25 representatives and two senators as original co-sponsors, and the act has been endorsed by 10 advocacy groups so far.
    Most important, the act specifies minimum staffing levels for 24-hour care in all nursing homes accepting Medicare and Medicaid payments. The minimum of 4.1 hours of direct care per resident daily are divided into portions of care by registered nurses (.75 hours), licensed practical or vocational nurses (.54) and certified nursing assistants (2.81).
    Currently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services does not specify standards despite years of advocacy on the topic. In a Kaiser Family Foundation data analysis for 2017, the average total nursing hours (both licensed nurses and nursing aides, orderlies and assistants) per resident in Colorado was 4.2, but the national totals ranged from 3.6 hours in Georgia to 5.2 hours in Alaska. Nursing Home Compare details averages on its website.
    The act also expands training requirements and supervision for all nursing staff and creates whistleblower and other protections for nursing home personnel and residents. Regarding another issue discussed, the act prohibits the use of forced arbitration agreements between residents and any nursing home entity. In addition, it develops a standardized protocol for nursing facilities to obtain informed consent for residents for treatment with psychotropic drugs.
    SJBAAA offers resources for people age 60 and older or on Medicare. For further information, please call me at 264-0501, ext. 1, or send an email to adrc@sjbaaa.org.