Caregiver tending to woman at home

A national essential caregivers program would be established if legislation introduced by a New York congresswoman becomes law.

HR 2114, the Essential Caregivers Act, was introduced earlier this month by U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) and would permit designated essential caregivers to enter long-term care facilities, including assisted living communities, to provide care and support to a resident during a public health emergency.

“This new federal standard will prevent seniors and those with disabilities from the indignity of being cut off from their caregivers,” Tenney said in a statement. “While so many New York families continue to mourn the loss of their loved ones and demand Gov. [Andrew] Cuomo be held accountable, this bill is one compassionate step toward making sure the most vulnerable among us never suffer alone in isolation again.”

The bill would allow each resident to have no more than two essential caregivers who can provide care for up to eight hour each day. Essential caregivers can provide physical, emotional and spiritual support to residents. 

Caregivers would be required to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test weekly, as well as undergo coronavirus screenings required of staff. They would be subject to a facility’s safety protocols, including the use of personal protective equipment and any mandatory COVID-19-related training, and would only be able to visit a resident in their room.

“Essential caregivers play a critical role in the overall wellbeing of residents who are in long-term care facilities. For this reason, passing a national essential caregiver standard, which would allow essential caregivers access to long-term care facilities, would be a huge win for this community,” Assemblyman Brian Miller (R-New Hartford) said. “We have clearly seen the effect separation has caused so many this past year with the pandemic, so it is high time we get something in place in order to prevent this from happening again in the future.”

Several states have updated their guidance for long-term care facilities, including assisted living communities, to implement visitation guidance issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid, which includes allowing compassionate care visits. California, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, New York, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania are among the states adopting some level of essential caregiver laws. 

Essential caregiver bills are being considered in Indiana, North Dakota, Texas and Washington.

Argentum also released an Essential Caregiver Toolkit to help senior living operators establish essential caregiver programs to combat the social isolation residents experienced during the pandemic.