Committee unanimously supports Sen. Libby bill to improve the quality of memory care facilities

Posted: May 06, 2019 | Senator Libby

Legislation from Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, to improve the quality of care provided to residents in memory care facilities was unanimously supported in the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee on Monday.

LD 1548, “Resolve, To Promote Quality and Transparency in the Provision of Services by Assisted Housing Programs That Provide Memory Care,” is the product of Sen. Libby’s 2017 bill LD 804, which called for reduced staff-to-patient ratios in memory care facilities that serve patients suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive impairments. LD 804 resulted in the Committee asking that an ad hoc group of experts, patients, providers and family members, self-titled the Memory Care Staffing Workgroup, meet to draft the language for LD 1548.

“Family members need to be assured that their loved ones are being well cared for by staff and facilities when they can no longer safely live at home,” said Sen. Libby. “Today’s vote shows that we as policymakers and regulators recognize that we need to get a better handle on staffing needs and safety concerns in this important sector of assisted living programs that have changed a lot in the last couple decades.”

As amended, LD 1548 requires the Department of Health and Human Services to contract with an outside organization to conduct a study to determine the amount of time staff at memory care facilities devote to meeting the needs of residents in assisted living facilities, with a focus on residents with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

The last “time study” of residents in assisted living facilities was conducted was 1999. In the years since that study, the acuity of these residents has increased.

Additionally, LD 1548 requires the Department to update rules governing the licensing and functioning of assisted living facilities, moving toward person-centered care. And finally, the bill requires the Department to convene a working group to review departmental rules governing training for direct care workers in Alzheimer’s or dementia care units in order to assess the adequacy of the training.

“I have immense respect for the caregivers working in memory care facilities. Most of them get little pay for the important work they do. They manage these residents on eight hours of Alzheimer’s training before they start working on a unit,” said Monique Gagne of Greene at a recent public hearing on LD 1548. “I feel if these facilities had better staff-to-resident ratios, more intense training, and more appealing incentives for those they hire, the residents would thrive.”

Brenda Gallant, the Maine Long-Term Care Ombudsman; the Maine Health Care Association; the Alzheimer’s Association, Maine Chapter; Gary Currier, executive director of Avita in Brunswick; and other Mainers who have concerns about the care their family members received in memory care facilities also spoke in favor of LD 1548 at the public hearing. No one spoke against LD 1548.

The bill now goes to the Maine Senate and House for further votes.