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Massachusetts legislation to improve nursing home care

This week Massachusetts senate members unanimously passed legislation that would strengthen protections for those in nursing homes. This legislation should go a long way in preventing nursing home negligence or abuse to the state's most vulnerable population, those that are suffering from dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

The state has lagged behind 44 others that have already enacted similar legislation. Currently, nursing homes can advertise special dementia and Alzheimer's care units, even though they may not employ a single individual with any training in caring for those afflicted with these diseases. This could lead to instances of medical malpractice if those caring for people with special needs fail to recognize problems and address potential issues.

This legislation would mandate training for all staff in the care of those suffering from dementia. This is particularly critical because over one half of all of those in nursing homes suffer from dementia. These individuals generally cannot accurately relate their experiences and the quality of care that they are receiving to their loved ones.

Two common signs of the condition are acting agitatedly and wandering aimlessly. Often, nursing homes do not provide special activities to engage those that are suffering from dementia, and that can cause an increase in these types of negative behaviors.

It is very difficult and emotional to place a beloved family member in a nursing home. But when a loved one is entrusted into the care of a nursing home, it must be held to the highest standard of care.

This bill is due to return to the House and Senate for enactment. It will then be sent to the governor, who has already expressed support for the legislation. It is a small step in paving the way to a better quality of care for those that need it the most.

Source: Boston.com, "Minimum standards for nursing home dementia care approved by Senate," Kay Lazar, June 12, 2012

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