Regulatory reforms are coming for assisted living community and personal care home operators in Georgia after Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill imposing staffing, training and financial reporting requirements.

headshot of Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp

Peach State lawmakers said the coronavirus pandemic made the need for reform even more clear, but industry representatives were calling for critical updates before a Senate vote. The Senate version added COVID-19-related requirements.

Genia Ryan, president and CEO of the Georgia Senior Living Association, said the association worked with the bill’s sponsors and the Georgia Department of Community Health to “help develop a meaningful law for the assisted living industry in Georgia.”

“We look forward to working with the Department of Community Health on implementing the rules and regulations for this new law, which are good for the industry and the seniors residing in assisted living communities,” Ryan told McKnight’s Senior Living.

Under the bill, memory care units must attain certification and add staff, directors need to be licensed, staff training in dementia care is required, and fines are increased. Assisted living communities now are required to report financial issues to residents and families.

The bill effort was led by state Rep. Sharon Cooper (R-Marietta) following an Atlanta Journal-Constitution series reporting on allegations of neglect and abuse by caregivers in assisted living communities and personal care homes. Georgia Sen. Brian Strickland (R-McDonough) led the bill through the state Senate.

Key highlights of the bill:

  • Increases in fines for serious violations.
  • Additional nursing service requirements in assisted living communities.
  • Certification requirements and higher minimum staffing levels for memory care units.
  • New testing and licensing requirements for facility administrators.
  • Financial stability requirements, and resident notification requirements for bankruptcy or ownership changes.

Under the bill’s guidelines, facilities have until July 2021 to meet most of the new requirements. Senior living providers were seeking additional time to create required training programs due to struggles in dealing with the ongoing pandemic. The state Department of Community Health, which oversees long-term care facilities, now will go through a rule-making process to establish the detailed requirements of the legislation.

The majority of the provisions in the bill relate to assisted living and personal care homes with 25 or more beds, but additional COVID-19 requirements — which take effect immediately — also apply to the state’s nursing homes and require facilities to:

  • Inform residents and their families within one day of a confirmed COVID-19 test.
  • Provide COVID-19 updates to residents and families weekly.
  • Maintain a minimum seven-day supply of protective masks, surgical gowns, eye protection and gloves for all residents and stuff.
  • Develop and communicate infection control and mitigation policies and procedures.
  • Have an epidemic and pandemic plan as part of a facility’s disaster preparedness plan that addresses protocols for surveillance and detection, infection control training for residents and staff, staffing, testing and visitation.
  • Test all staff and residents for COVID-19 within 19 days if they have not been tested already.

In other coronavirus-related news:

  • Rosella Bell lived through World War II, the Great Depression, 18 U.S. presidents and 9/11. She survived typhoid fever and the 1918 Spanish influenza. And now the 103-year-old Golden Living Center Sycamore Village resident has survived COVID-19.
  • COVID-19 cases among Florida long-term care residents, including assisted living residents, jumped to 1,868 as of June 30, the most since the pandemic began. The COVID-19-positive residents account for 1.3% of the total long-term care population. Positive tests among staff rose by 134 in a day to 3,090, also a record. 
  • The Pennsylvania Departments of Health and Human Services issued updated guidance to ensure a safe return to activities, visitation and other events for residents in personal care homes, assisted living residences, nursing homes and private intermediate care facilities. Long-term care facilities will need to meet several prerequisites before proceeding into the official three-step process for reopening.
  • A group of long-term care advocates in Washington state, including the Washington Health Care Association, formed a coalition in response to potential budget cuts of as much as $220 million to services used by older adults and people with disabilities. 
  • Michigan is easing restrictions on visiting long-term care facilities for limited circumstances as the coronavirus pandemic continues. Visitation will be allowed only for residents in serious or critical condition or in hospice care, or visits from family members of friends who assist residents with activities of daily living. 
  • Bella Vista Assisted Living in Oshkosh, WI, helped a resident celebrate his 103rd birthday. The community gathered outside and set out signs and balloons.
  • A Meadow Lakes continuing care retirement community resident celebrated her 100th birthday at the East Windsor Township, NJ, facility with family and friends. 
  • While Virginia eases restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic, assisted living communities and nursing homes remain under strict guidelines to help prevent the spread of the virus. According to the Virginia Department of Health, all staff and residents must test negative before a facility can enter Phase 1, which does not allow visitation. They must then remain COVID-free for two weeks before advancing to the next phase, which allows socially distant outdoor visits or window visits. 
  • New Orleans Saints player Cam Jordan made a surprise phone call to one of the team’s biggest fans, who is quarantined in her assisted living community. 
  • Norbert and Millie Tressel, residents of Bethany Home, an assisted living facility in Dubuque, IA, connected with family and friends to celebrate their 63rd wedding anniversary with a Zoom call.
  • The Paragon of Madisonville, a Kentucky assisted living community, created a hug station for families to reconnect with loved ones during COVID-19 social distancing requirements.