FLORHAM PARK, NJ — The Alzheimer's Association expressed gratitude toward New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy this week after he signed a bill addressing social isolation in long-term care (LTC) settings.

The organization also publicly thanked legislative champions Sen. Vin Gopal, Sen. Nellie Pou and Assembly members Valerie Vainieri Huttle, Angela McKnight and Carol Murphy for sponsoring the legislation.

"Thank you Governor Murphy and the entire New Jersey legislature for your unanimous bi-partisan support," said Phil Echevarria, director of government affairs. "We look forward to working collaboratively with our long-term care partners in making New Jersey a more dementia-friendly state."

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According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 48 percent of nursing home residents, and 42 percent of assisted-living residents live with Alzheimer’s or other dementia. As social and mental stimulation are among the few tools that can slow the march of dementia, legislation such as this can ensure that residents in these communities are protected, engaged and connected with their loved ones, the association said in a statement on Tuesday.

This new statewide requires LTC facilities, as a condition of licensure, to implement policies to prevent social isolation of residents. It is intended to address the tremendous strain experienced by long-term care residents, and families of residents, because of the prohibition of, and limitation on, visitation during the pandemic.

The bill requires facilities to create social isolation prevention policies to authorize residents of the facility to engage in in-person contact, communications, and religious and recreational activities with other facility residents and with family members, friends, and other external support systems, except when prohibited, restricted or limited. 

It further requires policies to consider means to promote virtual visitation and resident recreational activities during periods where in-person engagement is limited/prohibited, and requires facilities to maintain the appropriate technology to implement that mandate.