Creating a standard of dementia training for assisted living and other caregivers is the goal of proposed legislation in Florida, but a senior living organization says that not targeting training by population served is a mistake.

Senate Bill 634 and House Bill 309, known as the “Florida Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Training Act,” would require the state Department of Elderly Affairs to develop dementia-related training standards. The legislation would do away with individual facility requirements and create long-term care industry standards for dementia-related training.

A spokesman for LeadingAge Florida said that people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia have unique needs that change as the disease progresses and that staff training is important to ensure high-quality care.

“Training that is currently required by statute does a very good job of recognizing the different needs and is actually targeted to the specific provider type and the populations they serve. In contrast, the training proposed is not targeted to the population served by the provider,” Nick Van Der Linden of LeadingAge Florida said. “Instead, it arbitrarily increases the number of hours and the staff to be trained, regardless of whether they even work with individuals with a dementia diagnosis. This results in staff being taken away from providing care at a time when providers are struggling through a staffing shortage.”

LeadingAge Florida is part of a coalition of associations representing senior living and care providers that are working with the Alzheimer’s Association and sponsors of the bills on a “more reasonable approach” to training that addresses those concerns.

The bills create or revise training requirements for all employees — not just those who have direct contact with individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias — of assisted living communities, adult family care homes, nursing homes, adult day centers, home health agencies and hospices. 

Training requirements would apply to direct care workers; housekeeping, front desk and maintenance staff; and companions or homemakers. Training credentials also would follow a worker through employment or licensure changes so he or she does not have to repeat training.

Education would have to include one hour of dementia-related training that includes methods for interacting with people with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias. The bills also include timelines for training to be completed.

Direct care workers would be required to undergo at least three hours of evidence-based training, including an overview of Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders as well as the topics of person-centered care, assessment and care planning, activities of daily living, and dementia-related behaviors and communication. Direct care workers also would be required to take at least two hours of continuing education every two years, which a certified nursing assistant could count toward annual training requirements. 

Direct care workers at settings that advertise special care and services for people with Alzheimer’s disease or a related disorder would be required to complete four hours of training. 

The bills also would require trainers to develop assessments with minimum required scores for each training topic, and they would require employers to make employee training certificates available during inspections.

If passed, the act will take effect Oct. 1.