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Nursing home workers should be trained to provide specific care for dementia patients, whose presence in nursing homes is growing, according to new research.

The study, published in Health Affairs on Monday, found that while patients with Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias (ADRD) are spread throughout nursing homes across the country, only facilities with 90% or more residents diagnosed with these conditions provide high-quality care. 

“These findings raise concerns about the quality of care and life for the majority of residents with ADRD,” wrote researchers from the University of California system, Veterans Affairs Los Angeles Healthcare System, and the University of Chicago.

More than three million nursing home residents were diagnosed with ADRD between 2017 and 2019, and those diseases require “specialized care,” the authors noted. Fewer than half of those residents live in facilities where ADRD patients comprise 60% to 90% of the home’s total population. 

In his State of the Union address in January 2022, President Joe Biden first detailed his administration’s push to improve nursing home care through staffing standards. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is expected to unveil soon its proposed minimum rule, which many sector observers expect to be about 4.1 hours of direct care per resident per day.

The authors noted that staffing rules and other initiatives haven’t specifically targeted improving care for dementia patients; the broad body of initiatives are expected to enhance the quality of life for all nursing home residents. 

“President Biden has recently issued an executive order requiring agencies to promulgate policies to both increase staff and training in nursing homes,” lead author Dana B. Mukamel, a professor of Medicine, Public Health, and Nursing at the University of California Irvine, told McKnight’s Long-Term Care News on Monday. “It was not specific to dementia care, but it was a first step in the right direction. Depending on how this will be carried out, resources might become available.”

The study found that ADRD patients living in facilities with diverse populations may be less likely to receive specialized care and that SNFs with special care units for residents with dementia aren’t always available to the people who need them. 

“These statistics and the literature suggesting that nursing home residents with ADRD or cognitive impairment require more staff with specialized training raise concerns about whether the majority of such residents receive the care they need,” the authors wrote.