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Advocates welcome change in home health aide law

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo during election night outside

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo during election night outside the Jacob Javits Convention Center in Manhattan on Nov. 8, 2016. Photo Credit: AFP / Getty Images / Kena Betancur

A new state law will let highly trained home health aides administer medications and operate medical equipment for people in need of professional care at home, health officials. lawmakers and advocates said Thursday.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo on Thursday signed into law a bill that establishes the Advanced Home Health Aide job category for home health aides who receive additional training and act under the supervision of a licensed registered professional nurse to carry out advanced tasks.

They can assist people with debilitating diseases like dementia who are also living at home.

“Home health aides are a vital part of the New York’s healthcare system,” said Dr. Howard Zucker, state commissioner of health. “The need for home health aides will continue to grow, and opportunities for advancement will encourage more people to enter this important profession.”

The measure was sponsored by Assemb. Deborah Glick (D-Manhattan) and state Sen. Kenneth P. LaValle (R-Port Jefferson).

“This new law will improve the quality of life for ill family members,” Lavalle said. “Assisting families with alternative home health care options while protecting patient safety is the number one priority of this legislation.”

Glick said, “Upon receiving additional training, demonstrating sufficient proficiency and under the supervision of a licensed registered nurse, advanced home health aides are poised to make it easier for disabled New Yorkers to safely receive quality healthcare at home.”

The news was welcomed by advocates.

“This important legislation will allow more of the 390,000 New Yorkers with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia to be cared for at home,” said Doug Davidson, executive director of Alzheimer’s Association Long Island Chapter. “Unpaid family members and caregivers are often asked to help with tasks like giving medication, which can be uncomfortable or inconvenient for them.”

The organization said that the law allows more people to remain at home for care for a longer time period, delaying admission to a skilled nursing facility and saving the state hundreds of millions of dollars in Medicaid payments.

“This is a victory for all New Yorkers with Alzheimer’s disease and their 1.1 million caregivers,” said Jane Ginsburg, executive director of the Coalition of New York State Alzheimer’s Association Chapters. “Alzheimer’s is a public health crisis, and we applaud Governor Cuomo and the New York State Legislature for supporting this effort to keep New Yorkers at home.”

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