Group homes for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia are expected to undergo more rigorous scrutiny under a new law.
Under the measure signed by Governor Christie on Monday, such homes will be regulated as health care facilities by the state Department of Health, instead of as boarding homes under state housing officials. The homes, typically in residential neighborhoods, represent a relatively new niche in the elder-care market.
Group homes for dementia patients have been regulated by the state Department of Community Affairs, whose inspectors are trained to monitor building and safety issues. The law’s sponsors argued that the facilities should be treated more like nursing homes and subject to the same kinds of regulations and oversight, with reviews conducted by people with medical expertise.
Under the new law, each group home will be required to get a new license as a “dementia care home” through the Department of Health, which will establish standards for group homes for dementia patients, and provide information about such homes on its Web site, including ownership and regulation violations (as it does now for other long-term-care facilities).
Potomac Homes, now operating under the name Memory Care Living, operates 13 homes across the state. They are being sued by the family of a patient who was found lying on the floor of her bedroom with a broken hip in January and has since been moved to a nursing home. In other lawsuits, families said their loved ones fell or were improperly treated for bed sores.
Three years ago, a review of inspection records for Memory Care Living homes in North Jersey revealed reports of residents wandering out unlocked doors or gates, an incident in which a patient broke a hip climbing out a second-story window, and instances in which state inspectors found lax responses to residents’ medical needs.
This year, a review of records found that Memory Care Living has been fined more than $20,000 for allegedly violating the new staffing requirements its own lawyers had negotiated with state regulators in 2013 to allow them to retain residents with mobility limitations. The company had been contesting the fines, saying its homes were appropriately staffed and state inspectors were improperly enforcing the regulations.
The new law will take effect in June. One of the bill’s sponsors, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, said the new provisions will allow families of dementia patients in group homes to have “peace of mind knowing they’re getting the best care possible.”