CA Gov. Gavin Newsom hedshot

Assisted living operators in California will be required to provide video conferencing devices for residents under legislation signed into law on Monday. Another new law provides older adults in the Golden State with access to annual cognitive health assessments.

AB 665, sponsored by Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia (D-Coachella) requires adult and senior residential care facilities with existing internet service to provide access to at least one device for residents to enable virtual visits. The device must be dedicated for resident use and must be able to support real-time, interactive applications and be equipped with video conferencing. Acceptable devices include computers, smartphones, tablet computers and other equipment that has a microphone and camera functions.

“Seniors in residential care facilities for the elderly without an internet access tool may face challenges in acquiring telehealthcare, government services or connecting with loved ones,” Garcia said, adding that the pandemic placed older adults at greater risk for loneliness and isolation. “Our seniors cannot afford to lose access to the internet when they move into residential care facilities for the elderly. With an internet access tool, residents can safely connect with their family and engage in virtual community programs.”

Alzheimer’s screening tool

Other legislation signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), SB48, sponsored by Sen. Monique Limon (D-Santa Barbara), requires California’s Medicaid healthcare program, Medi-Cal, to cover an annual cognitive health assessment for people aged 65 and older, to help identify signs of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia. 

Under the program, providers can receive payment for the benefit if they complete cognitive health assessment training. The state Department of Health Care Services will develop assessment tools for the program in consultation with the state Department of Public Health’s Alzheimer’s Disease Program, primary care specialists and the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Disorders Advisory Committee of the California Health and Human Services Agency.

In California, Alzheimer’s is the fourth-leading cause of death. In 2020, an estimated 5.8 million Americans aged 65 and older had Alzheimer’s disease, including 690,000 Californians. According to the DHCA, as of July, there are approximately 1.3 million Medi-Cal beneficiaries who are 65 or older. Of those, more than 1.1 million were eligible for both Medi-Cal and Medicare, and 181,584 were eligible for Medi-Cal only. 

The law builds on Newsom’s Master Plan on Aging, released Jan. 6, which included a recommendation to promote screening, diagnosis and care planning for Alzheimer’s and related dementias, and to incorporate dementia standards of care into Medi-Cal and Medicare managed care. 

SB48 was supported by the California Assisted Living Association, LeadingAge California, the AARP, the California Long-term Care Ombudsman Association and Justice in Aging.