ATLANTA — Georgia lawmakers recently passed legislation to speed up delivery of critical pain medication to assisted living residents in hospice care.

House Bill 374, sponsored by Rep. John LaHood, R-Valdosta, is expected to expedite the process of administering pain medication — namely liquid morphine — to hospice patients residing in licensed assisted living communities.

Currently, only a hospice nurse can give morphine to a patient in assisted living. LaHood’s bill was written to allow a certified medication aide at the assisted living facility to administer the medication when a hospice staff member is not on site.

“I consider HB 374 to be compassionate legislation that will enable hospice patients residing in assisted living communities to get the care they need in a more timely manner,” LaHood said.

Vicki Vaughn Johnson, chair of the Georgia Council on Aging, said the bill, championed by LaHood and LeadingAge Georgia and supported by the Georgia Senior Living Association and the Assisted Living Association of Georgia, should help hospice patients avoid long waits for pain relief.

“This is a carefully crafted solution to help those in the last stages of life deal with constant pain,” Johnson said.

Ginny Helms, president of LeadingAge Georgia, said her group told lawmakers that residents in assisted living facilities were suffering with pain while waiting for a hospice nurse.

“The legislators responded and passed a bill that allows for liquid morphine to be administered by med techs under the supervision of a hospice nurse and based on a doctor’s order,” she said. “We are grateful for the support of lawmakers.”

LaHood’s bill, which is now on the desk of Gov. Brian Kemp, does not apply to hospice patients in personal care homes. It treats hospice patients in assisted living similarly to hospice patients who are being cared for at their homes.

In those instances, the law allows the authority to administer medications to be delegated to a family member.

LeadingAge Georgia is a statewide association of more than 170 long-term care housing and service providers. Georgia Council on Aging is a nonprofit advocacy agency that advocates on behalf of elderly Georgians and their families to improve their quality of life.

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