More than one-third of residents in assisted living and other residential care facilities have some form of dementia or cognitive impairment, according to data from the Alzheimer’s Association. In an effort to ensure that those residents are receiving the highest quality of care, Colorado lawmakers recently passed legislation mandating dementia-specific training for professional caregivers in assisted living communities and some other long-term care settings.

Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) signed the bill (SB22-079) into law on May 31. It establishes a minimum, but consistent, dementia training requirement for direct care staff across the three facility types that are most likely to be caring for residents or program participants living with dementia: assisted living communities, nursing homes and adult day centers. The rule takes effect Jan. 1, 2024.

Some covered facilities already voluntarily are conducting more dementia-specific training than this law will require, whereas others, including assisted living communities that operate secure memory care units, already are required under federal and/or state regulation to do some of what this new law requires in terms of training, Deborah Lively, director of public policy and public affairs at LeadingAge Colorado, told McKnight’s Senior Living.

Care settings transitions

The main purpose of the law is to set a dementia training “floor” for staff members in the specified care settings, to fill in the parts of the dementia training requirement that each setting is not already required to do. The law also will help ensure that when residents move from one care setting to another, they and their families will know that staff members have at least that minimum level of training.

Lively also noted that although LeadingAge Colorado worked with the bill’s sponsors and proponents early in the legislative session to address most of the concerns that the association had about the bill as it originally was drafted, the legislation still does not provide additional funding for the training it requires.

“This leaves assisted living facilities to cover all training-related costs, including the staff time needed to provide and attend the training,” she said, adding that some adult day centers to which the new law applies do not provide services to elderly clients.

“In this case, the requirement to conduct dementia-related training for staff is a costly mandate that does not serve to provide better services to the clients of those adult day centers,” she said.

Other states

Still, other states also recently have pushed measures to require dementia training for healthcare providers. In May, Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) signed into law House Bill 4388, which requires emergency medical technicians and paramedics to receive an hour of education on recognizing symptoms, caring for, treating and communicating with individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. 

Some senior living providers have even taken it upon themselves to educate emergency personnel on techniques to communicate with people living with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. 

For instance, as McKnight’s Senior Living previously reported, Edgewood Retirement Community in North Andover, MA, extended dementia training for staff and family members to first responders. The continuing care retirement community hosts training sessions aligned with recertification requirements for those first responders.

This article originally appeared on McKnight's Senior Living