Georgia Rep. Sharon Cooper

ATLANTA – The Georgia House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed legislation Friday that would add training and staffing requirements to the living facilities housing a growing number of elderly Georgians.

The bill, which passed 160-1 and now heads to the state Senate, would apply to assisted-living and personal-care homes with 25 beds or more and add a new category called memory care units for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, which would have extra security including locked wards to keep confused residents from wandering away.

The legislation would require at least one direct-care staff member be on duty at each home for every 15 senior residents during waking hours and one for every 20 residents at night.

A licensed or registered professional nurse would have to be on site at assisted living facilities for at least eight hours per week. All staff would have to undergo training in caring for elderly and disabled residents,

The bill also would require the homes to notify residents in writing at least 60 days in advance of impending bankruptcy proceedings or evictions.

“Elderly people consider these facilities their home,” Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, the measure’s chief sponsor, told her House colleagues Friday. “They don’t need to get one week’s notice that they have to go out and find somewhere else to live.”

Cooper said Georgia’s elderly population is increasing at four times the rate of the rest of the state’s population, as the Peach State grows in popularity among retirees.

“People like the atmosphere and weather of Georgia,” she said. “Many are bypassing Florida now to make their homes in Georgia.”