In The News: Essential Caregivers Act Introduced

When working in an industry constantly battling red tape, we have to celebrate the small victories. Since COVID, we’ve been advocating for the Essential Caregivers Act—legislation that would have greatly decreased the rates of loneliness and neglect during the pandemic. And recently, we have the first step to this industry-wide win: the Essential Caregivers Act has been introduced to Congress.

The Pandemic

During the COVID pandemic nursing homes and other care facilities shut their doors to all visitors. Huge restrictions were put on visiting hours, if visiting hours were even allowed at all. This had a massive negative impact on both residents and staff. For residents, it meant weeks and months of isolation. Months of not seeing any loved ones and the forced use of technologies like Facetime that most residents did not know how to use or did not understand. Facetime and phone calls were poor substitutes for physical touch and in person conversations.

For staff, these restrictions meant they became the number one support system for every single patient in their care. An unrealistic expectation even for nursing homes with sufficient staff. This extra strain opened the doors for more staff burnout, the potential for resident neglect, and so much more.

Essential Caregivers would have alleviated these difficult circumstances.

PC: Logan Weaver via Unsplash

What Are Essential Caregivers

As defined by the bill itself (H.R. 8331), an Essential Caregiver is an “individual designated by or on behalf of the resident, who will provide assistance to the resident, which may include activities of daily living, emotional support or companionship.” 

The Essential Caregiver is most likely a family member who is able to visit the resident in-person regardless of other restrictions put in place. Not only does this ensure the resident’s rights regarding visitation are not infringed, but it also allows the loved one designated as Essential Caregiver to ensure all standards of care are upheld. 

According to the bill, Essential Caregivers are subject to the same safety precautions as the facility’s staff. 

Essential Caregivers Act

A few things to note about the legislation itself:

  • This bill strikes a balance by protecting public health, while safeguarding the wellbeing of residents; specifically, the bill would allow a limited number of caregivers into a facility during a public health emergency, in addition to other instances in which regular visitation is restricted. 
  • The Essential Caregiver program applies to skilled nursing facilities, nursing facilities, intermediate care facilities, and inpatient rehabilitation facilities. Any such facility receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding is required to participate in the program.
  • Essential Caregivers shall be provided unrestricted access to the resident. During a period in which regular visitation is restricted by order of a Federal, State, or local authority, facilities may restrict access for an initial period not longer than 7 days and for an additional period of not longer than 7 days with approval of the state department of health in which the facility is located. 

What You Can Do

Since this legislation is not officially passed but rather has simply been introduced to Congress, the biggest thing you can do as an advocate is to write your representative. By mail or email, encourage your representative to vote YES for H.R. 8331 and S.B. 4280.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, call Gharibian Law (866-706-6185) today for a FREE consultation and the best legal representation.