Orlando, Fla. - In a state with one of the largest 65-plus populations in the U.S., AARP Florida is sounding the alarm about a bill recently signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
It changes required staffing hours in nursing homes.
"The primary concern is the quality of care going downhill in nursing homes across Florida," said Zayne Smith, Assoc. State Dir. Of Advocacy AARP Florida.
Previously, certified nursing assistants, or CNAs, were required to provide 2.5 hours of direct care to each patient, each day. That’s now been cut down to two hours. CNAs take care of a lot of the daily tasks for residents.
"They may help the resident get dressed, they may help the resident take a shower, use the restroom safely," explained Diana Kuzma, the executive director of the Canopy at Hickory Creek in Brevard County.
The minimum weekly average of 3.6 hours of care per patient per day stays the same, but it broadens the types of employees allowed to fill that time.
"We fear that it will make a significant impact when you reduce the nursing time spent with residents in nursing homes," Smith said.
The nursing home industry says these changes will help with staffing shortages.
"This gives us the ability to have some flexibility and staff those specialists, while we are still looking through those recruitment and retention strategies to make sure we have enough people to care for our residents," said Kristen Knapp of the Florida Health Care Association.
Kuzma says after a decade working in the long-term care industry, she understands both sides of the argument.
"I believe that we have to pitch in and help and get creative sometimes but I also believe we should never sacrifice resident care," Kuzma said.
The governor signed the bill Wednesday, and it went into effect immediately.