5/4/21: SB1373 was signed into law by Gov. Doug Ducey

A bill proposed in Arizona would require assisted living caregivers to perform life-saving measures before the arrival of first responders when a resident experiences a medical emergency.

Arizona SB1373, introduced by state Rep. Nancy Barto (R-Phoenix), requires assisted living caregivers to initiate basic life support, including CPR, and first aid for residents who experience an emergency illness, injury or a fall. It also prevents facilities from implementing policies that prevent employees from providing life-saving care to residents.

Karen Barno, CEO and founder of the Arizona Assisted Living Federation of America, said the legislation asks caregivers to go beyond their scope of practice.

“During an emergency, the first protocol to be completed is a medical assessment,” Barno told McKnight’s Senior Living. “SB1373 would direct certified caregivers to assess the resident medically, and this is not in their scope of practice. Registered nurses are the only ones licensed to do medical assessments, not the caregiver.”

The bill was initiated over frustrations that assisted living communities in the state were not performing life-saving care, instead relying on first responders.

Donna Taylor, president-elect of LeadingAge Arizona and chair of its Policy and Governmental Affairs Committee, echoed the concerns of Barno regarding making caregivers responsible for medical decisions without medical training.

“I believe that every member of our community has a right to be competently assessed by EMS personnel, whether they live at home or in a senior community,” Taylor told McKnight’s Senior Living. “In the end, I believe that SB1373 will increase costs to our seniors, wrongly enable ambulance-chasing attorneys to sue senior communities, put seniors at greater risk for inadequate assessment by personnel who are outside of their scope of practice, and deny seniors access to EMS services simply because they happen to reside in a senior community.”

Taylor said the bill includes a broad range of care settings, including assisted living, and was written and submitted without input from the senior care / aging services community. She said LeadingAge worked with legislators and other stakeholders to develop a bill just prior to the pandemic that addressed the key concerns of the emergency medical services and aging services community.

In the Grand Canyon State, assisted living providers are not intended to provide medical or nursing support; they are residential living homes and centers designed to support activities of daily living for older adults, Taylor said. She added that she is hopeful that an opportunity still exists to talk with all stakeholders.

The bill has the support of the various first responder associations and civic groups, the Arizona Public Health Association and AARP.