The Georgia Department of Community Health has decided not to change a rule, which would reduce staffing requirements in memory care units. The board was set to vote on the final adoption in January, but abandoned the plan. 

Current Georgia law requires at least two direct care workers "on-site" in each memory care unit. That law was created and passed in 2020. Nancy Pitra, Director of Government Affairs with the Alzheimer's Association Georgia Chapter said it's something they believe is a minimum.

"And that you can not go below to care for people living with dementia who may wonder and have different type of behavioral expressions that need more oversight, not just for them, but also for the staff," explained Pitra.

In November, the Georgia Department of Community Health or DCH accepted a petition to change the rule to no longer require two onsite workers in a memory care facility. 

The Association said this rule change would put the safety and well-being of those with dementia and staff in jeopardy. So, during the public comment period, Pitra said they worked to get everyone's voice heard on this issue.

"We were able to get a lot of dementia caregivers, law enforcement, gerontology professors, lots of our community partners that are part of the Georgia Council on Aging...lots of people sent in written comments."

Pitra said according to their tracking, more than 400 comments were sent to DCH not in favor of the rule change. She said there were two public hearing where community members came out to testify. She said Representative Sharon Cooper, who sponsored the 2020 legislation that that set the staffing minimums, lead the charge in speaking out against the rule change.

After hearing all the comments, the department chose not to move forward with the change.

"We're really appreciative of everybody that made their voice heard and really appreciative of the Department of Community Health listened to what they were hearing," expressed Pitra.

She said this is a great example of the power and importance of getting your voice out there. She said they are currently working on stronger legislation for ways prevent and prosecute for elder abuse.

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