New Bush Administration Rule To Create ‘Feeding Assistant’ Positions in Nursing Homes
A new HHS rule will allow nursing homes to hire low-wage or part-time workers who have completed an eight-hour training course to help feed patients, a task that currently can be performed only by licensed nurses, certified nurse's aides or other health care professionals, the New York Times reports. The rule -- to be issued in the next few days and set to take effect within 30 days of being published -- will allow nursing homes to hire feeding assistants or allow clerical or housekeeping employees to feed residents who cannot feed themselves. Currently nurse's aides must have 75 hours of training and pass a standardized test; the new feeding assistants would not have to pass a test, the Times reports. The rule states that in an emergency situation, a feeding assistant would be required to "call a supervisory nurse" by ringing a call bell. A final draft of the regulation says the new standards would help residents "receive more assistance with eating and drinking, both at meals and at snack time."
Bush administration officials said that the rule will improve the quality of care in the face of a labor shortage in nursing homes. Alan DeFend, vice president of the American Health Care Association, said, "It will be a major help in addressing the shortage of health care workers." However, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said problems such as malnutrition and dehydration should be addressed by more skilled nursing home employees. AARP and the Alzheimer's Association also oppose the rule, which they say will cause harm to residents. Janet Wells, director of public policy at the National Citizens' Coalition for Nursing Home Reform, said, "A 16-year-old feeding assistant, with one day of training and little experience, will not be equipped to deal with your 90-year-old grandmother if she starts to choke or has heart failure" (Pear, New York Times, 9/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.