Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Securing Dementia-Group Homes

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Securing Dementia-Group Homes

Article excerpt

Small group homes for people with Alzheimer's or dementia could face more scrutiny of the care they provide to their residents, under a proposed law that cleared an Assembly committee Thursday.

The measure requiring the state Department of Health to take over the responsibility of regulating and inspecting the 24 dementia- care group homes in the state was approved by the Assembly Health and Senior Services committee without any opposition being expressed.

The chief sponsor, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, said she hopes for a full Assembly vote before the end of the year on the proposal, which would reclassify these small businesses -- a relatively new niche in the long-term-care market -- as health care facilities rather than as boarding homes.

"These are much more than boarding homes," said Huttle, D- Englewood, pointing out that individuals with dementia need careful monitoring and often have other underlying medical issues.

The lawmaker argued that the care provided by the homes' on-site nurses and aides should be reviewed by Health Department officials, who have medical backgrounds, rather than by inspectors from the Department of Community Affairs, who are trained more as building and safety inspectors.

Huttle took up the campaign for tougher regulatory scrutiny after a December 2012 article in The Record detailed a series of citations and safety lapses at a chain of group homes, formerly known as Potomac Homes but now operating under the name Memory Care Living.

A review of inspection records of those homes revealed incidents in which residents had wandered out unlocked doors or gates, one in which a woman broke a hip climbing out a second-story window, and others in which state inspectors faulted the homes for lax responses to residents' medical needs.

Initially, the company, which now operates 13 homes, including eight in towns throughout Bergen County, was issued fines totaling more than $100,000. …

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