Assisted living communities would be required to have comprehensive disaster preparedness plans in place under a bill being considered by the state Legislature in Washington.

House Bill 1218 also would require communities to meet timeliness standards for communicating with the public and for providing access to communication equipment to residents as well as maintain a resident roster with contact information, including legal decision-makers. The legislation also would apply to adult family homes, enhanced services facilities and nursing homes.

“The legislation addresses communications, isolation and much-needed safety measures to ensure that residents in long-term care facilities and their families are able to enjoy the quality of life guaranteed to them in state and federal law,” bill sponsor Rep. Jessica Batemen (D-22), vice chair of the state House Health Care & Wellness Committee, said in a statement. “During the pandemic, these issues have been quite difficult for residents and their families.” 

Bateman said the bill would require operators to respond to incoming communications from residents’ families, medical providers and other community supports. In addition, they would be required to have sufficient telecommunications equipment and assistance for residents to use devices to stay connected with the greater community and with their families.

“This is critical, as many residents have been restricted to visitors and have been isolated inside the facility since the pandemic began,” Bateman said. “Basic telecommunications, like a phone, is the only way some residents can stay connected with others.”

The bill also would provide residents with the right to visitation by an “essential support person” during lockdowns. That person, designated by the resident, is “necessary for the resident’s emotional, mental or physical well-being in compassionate care or end-of-life care situations.” In cases of a cognitively impaired resident or another situation involving emotional distress, the essential support person also would be allowed to visit to reduce resident confusion or anxiety.