Important New Legislation: Memory Group Homes And Dementia Facilities To Be Governed By The Nj Department Of Health

By: Donna Russo, Esq.

You may ask why this legislation is so important? Prior to this legislation, memory care homes were governed by the Department of Community Affairs and were treated as boarding homes with very little, if any protection, for the vulnerable adults suffering from alzheimers, dementia and related disorders.   I litigated against one of these memory group homes because the resident was simply not an appropriate resident given the minimal care being afforded by the group home.

Assembly Bill 1102 (identical Senate Bill S-1145) was signed into law on November 9, 2015. The law will take effect in June 2016. In addition to removing these facilities from the Department of Community Affairs and to the jurisdiction of the Department of Health, the legislation contains mandatory safeguards for the protection of those residents who have conditions such as alzheimers and dementia disorders. The bill defines “dementia care home” as a community residential facility that provides services to residents with special needs, including, but not limited to, persons with Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders or other forms of dementia.

The question is whether this bill includes dementia care units in assisted living facilities? One would think that the assisted living facilities would be up at arms at legislation that would significantly increase the cost of care that will be required for dementia residents. I have addressed this issue with one of the bill’s sponsors and have been advised that the regulations that are being promulgated to correspond with this bill will be broad enough and include dementia care/memory care facilities in assisted living facilities. Without this bill, there are no specific regulations delegating more specific care to dementia residents. Nursing homes and now dementia care homes are regulated by statute. Assisted living facilities are not governed by statute and the regulations do not provide anywhere near the protection for dementia residents provided in this bill.

The key provisions of the bill are:

(1) Regulations are to be established assuring that the needs of residents shall include, at a minimum, (a) staffing levels, which shall ensure that the ratio of direct care staff to residents in the facility is equal to or higher that which existed prior to enactment of the bill; (b) staff qualifications and training; © special dietary needs of residents; (d) special supervision requirements related to the individual needs of residents.

(2) Regulations to establish building safety requirements appropriate to the needs of residents, including the requirement to maintain the operation 24 hours a day, seven days a week, of window, door, and any other locks or security system designed to prevent the elopement of a resident.

(3) Regulations to establish health monitoring of residents by qualified, licensed health care professionals, including a requirement that a medical assessment by a physician be performed on a resident with special needs, prior to admission and on a quarterly basis thereafter, to ensure that the facility is appropriate to the needs of the resident.

(4) Regulations to require criteria for discharging residents which shall be set forth in the admission agreement, which shall be provided to the resident or the resident’s representative prior to or upon admission. The commissioner may revoke the license of any provider who violates the criteria for discharging residents.

(5) A person who operates a dementia care home shall not provide health care services in the facility. However, it shall not be construed to prohibit a licensed health care professional, who is acting within the scope of that person’s license, from providing health care services to a resident of a dementia care home.

       I will be monitoring the regulations when introduced and will be providing an update.