Caring for patients with memory loss can be a challenging endeavor requiring a special set of skills to learn how to manage the symptoms and behavioral changes that occur as a person’s memory loss advances. In Illinois, the number of people who suffer from Alzheimer’s will increase by 18.2% by 2025. In response, Illinois devised a state plan to increase access to programs, research, services and resources for long-term care, community-based services, and dementia support.
While Illinois has long supported Alzheimer’s based initiatives dating back to 1985, Illinois took a bolder step when Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law a new legislation called the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Services Act aimed at strengthening protections for consumers and eliminating loopholes by standardizing training and regulating how providers advertise their services. As a result, home care agencies providing dementia based care must improve their care plans. The Illinois Department of Health is now crafting specific guidelines, and while some details are still being ironed out to ensure statewide understanding and compliance, here’s how this new law may affect your business when the rules go into effect.
Synopsis of the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Services Act
1 - Greater Transparency for New and Potential Clients
Home care agencies will need to clearly define their approach to Alzheimer's and dementia care upfront to patients. This includes outlining the services you offer as well as your approach to behavior management and the use of drug therapies in your advertising and intake processes.
2 - Specialized Alzheimer’s and Dementia Care Training
In addition to the standard initial and annual training required for home care workers in Illinois, all staff members that provide dementia care to clients must receive at least six hours of initial training within the first 60 days of employment from a curriculum certified by the Illinois Department of Health.This additional training helps caregivers develop specialized skills in dementia care that will help them better understand, communicate and manage patient activities and behaviors.
If your caregivers have received previous training that qualifies under the law or are temporary employees, they may be exempt from this requirement, but each caregiver must still obtain three hours of additional training each year to meet state regulations. Also, any caregiver that has three or more years of experience or received training through an educational institution can petition the Illinois Department of Health for a training waiver. Program directors in charge of dementia care must also complete additional training offered by the Department of Health.
3 -Thorough Documentation of Compliance Methods
Detailed training records must be maintained to prove compliance of your caregivers and agency. While the Act does not provide specific detail on what type of records should be kept, it makes sense to default to the protocols used for standard training that include the date of the training, time spent on each topic and description of each topic, instructors and their qualifications, and staff member's signature. Also, keep records of your advertising and intake materials so you are prepared for any surprise audits.
Failure to comply may have hefty consequences which could include the loss of your license or certification and monetary fines. And while not explicitly related to the Alzheimer’s Disease and Related Dementias Services Act, it’s always a good idea to check the Health Care Worker Registry to verify a caregiver’s continued ability to work in accordance with the law. This registry keeps records of abuse, neglect, and misconduct. You can search the registry by first and last name and then type in the social security (if known) to confirm you are viewing the records of the right person.
These requirements could change as DPH outlines the ways in which agencies can see compliance. Therefore, it’s best to be prepared for when these new rules go into effect by not only understanding the proposed requirements but also putting a training plan into place so you can ramp up quickly and avoid disruption to your business.