Memory care endorsement proposed

Assisted living facilities in Nebraska could apply for a memory care endorsement under a bill heard Jan. 28 by the Health and Human Services Committee.

LB708, introduced by Lincoln Sen. Kate Bolz, would require the state Department of Health and Human Services to develop an endorsement for facilities that provide high quality care for individuals with cognitive impairment, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Qualifications for the endorsement would include staffing enhancements, staff training, dedicated programing and security requirements. The department also would be required to examine the Medicaid rate structure and make recommendations regarding a higher or supplemental reimbursement rate for facilities that qualify for the endorsement.

Bolz said the bill would benefit providers by allowing them to promote the endorsement to families seeking the best quality care for their loved ones. In addition, she said, an increased reimbursement rate for qualified assisted living facilities could incentivize facilities to care for high-need individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s.

“Statistics show that the prevalence of this disease is increasing,” she said, “and the number of people in Nebraska is expected to rise to over 40,000 by the year 2025.”

Julie Kaminski, executive director of Leading Age Nebraska, testified in support of the bill. Most of the providers in the state that specialize in Alzheimer’s care are located in Lincoln and Omaha, she said, and an enhanced reimbursement rate for Medicaid-eligible individuals could help bring that type of care to rural Nebraska.

“It would create memory care communities that have a secure environment that is staffed appropriately by individuals who really understand the subtle nuances of [the disease],” Kaminski said.

Christopher Kelly, associate professor of gerontology at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, also testified in support. Individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s and dementia benefit from aging in place, he said, and can suffer transfer trauma if required to move to nursing care facilities.

“The picture of the resident that is hopefully helped by this bill is that of the resident who is aging in place in our state’s assisted living facilities,” he said.

Kelly said the bill would allow facilities to seek the endorsement if they chose, but wouldn’t result in greater regulation or red tape for those that do not.

“For those providers that do want to do this, it is providing not only the recognition but also the compensation that is commensurate with the care,” he said.

No opposition testimony was offered and the committee took no immediate action on the bill.

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