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Thursday, September 25, 2003 Contact: CMS Public Affairs
(202) 690-6343


New Rules Designed To Permit Feeding Assistants To Increase Quality of Care

HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson today announced new regulations that will help improve the quality of care for nursing
home residents by allowing for trained assistants to help residents eat and drink.

"By permitting the use of trained feeding assistants, nursing homes will be able to provide their residents with better care, especially during the busiest times of the day - breakfast, lunch and dinner," Secretary Thompson said. "Nursing homes will now be able to free their nurses and nurse aides to help them focus on their residents' other health care needs and on those residents with complex feeding problems. This means that residents will be able to receive better nutrition and care."

The new rule allows nursing homes to hire trained feeding assistants to help residents eat and drink. The new assistants will be required to successfully complete a state-approved course of at least eight hours, and the use of these assistants must be consistent with state law. Currently, nursing homes rely primarily on certified nurse aides (CNAs) or other health care professionals to assist residents with eating and drinking. Volunteers and family members also may assist with these tasks.

The regulations, which will be published as a final rule in the Sept. 26 issue of the Federal Register, will make it easier for nursing homes to hire trained feeding assistants to help residents who have no complicated feeding problems.

"We expect that these feeding assistants will take some of the pressure off of the nurses, nurse aides and other staff by allowing them more time to provide some of the more complex tasks such as bathing, toileting and changing dressings," said Tom Scully, administrator of HHS' Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

In addition to making it easier for nursing homes to better serve residents by permitting more of their staff to help with feeding some residents, the Bush administration has been aggressive in its efforts to improve the quality of care provided to nursing home residents. Last year, HHS launched a national quality initiative to help people who rely on Medicare and Medicaid programs, and
their families, find the best nursing homes for their needs. CMS is
providing meaningful nursing home quality information to help consumers compare and choose quality providers. The information is available through the "Nursing Home Compare" feature on Medicare's consumer Website,

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