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Justice in Aging finds Gaps in Dementia Training Standards in New 50-State Survey

August 24, 2015

Oakland, CA—Justice in Aging (formerly the National Senior Citizens Law Center) today released a first-of-its-kind comprehensive survey of state laws around dementia training. The survey, Training to Serve People with Dementia: Is our Health Care System Ready? was created with the support of the Alzheimer’s Association. As the number of people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias tops five million and continues to rise, there is a growing need for comprehensive state training requirements for professionals who come into contact with people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias, as well as facility-based training. Organized into five separate papers, the survey includes detailed charts with full state law citations. The overall finding is that state laws governing dementia training are not keeping up with the growing need.

The series of papers takes a detailed look at existing laws across professional categories—from nurses and Certified Nursing Assistants to EMTs. And also surveys laws in facilities that commonly serve people with dementia, such as nursing homes and adult day care centers. A major takeaway of the papers is that training requirements are patchy, with significant gaps in who is covered, the specificity of training content, and how competency is tested.

“The Justice in Aging report is a wakeup call for policymakers,” said Matthew Baumgart, senior director of public policy with the Alzheimer’s Association. “These findings demonstrate that we are woefully unequipped to deal with the growing Alzheimer’s crisis as the baby boomers age and prevalence of those living with this disease triples. Policymakers must improve existing training requirements and patient care standards throughout our health care, long-term care, and emergency response systems.”

Selected Findings:

  • 64% of people in nursing homes have dementia but fewer than half of the states have dementia training requirements for nursing home staff.
  • Training requirements are most robust in Alzheimer’s special care units of assisted living facilities, with much less attention paid to providers serving people in their homes or in other community-based settings.
  • Half of the states require dementia training for Certified Nursing Assistants and only two states require training for registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, or licensed vocational nurses.
  • Only 13 states require dementia training for home health aides and licensed personal care assistants.
  • Ten states have dementia training requirements for law enforcement personnel and training typically focuses exclusively on dealing with wandering behavior.

“There are some excellent training models out there,” said Georgia Burke, Directing Attorney at Justice in Aging, and one of the authors of the report. “But our research shows that we have a long way to go to make sure that training gets to those who need it. The gaps in training standards for community-based providers were particularly striking.”

Read the full series here, and check our Vimeo channel for the webinar slides that will be uploaded after today’s webinar. Follow @justiceinaging on twitter for the latest information on this topic and others that affect the lives of seniors and persons with disabilities, particularly the 6.4 million seniors living in poverty today.

Justice in Aging is a national non-profit legal advocacy organization that fights senior poverty through law. Formerly the National Senior Citizens Law Center, since 1972 we’ve worked for access to affordable health care and economic security for older adults with limited resources, focusing especially on populations that have traditionally lacked legal protection such as women, people of color, LGBT individuals, and people with limited English proficiency. Through targeted advocacy, litigation, and the trainings and resources we provide to local advocates, we ensure access to the social safety net programs that poor seniors depend on, including Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). For more information, visit our website at

Contact: Vanessa Barrington
510-256-1200 direct

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