Controversy arises over adding cameras in nursing home rooms

LANSING, Mich. (WNDU) - Michigan lawmakers are proposing a bill that would add video cameras in the rooms of nursing home patients.

“Every person I talk to says this is a great and absolutely wonderful idea except the nursing home,” said Michigan Sen. Jim Runestad, who is proposing a bill that would allow video camera surveillance inside the rooms of nursing home resident only if residents agree.

The goal is to help combat elder abuse.

“There are unbelievable numbers of videos and the stark, horrific nature of the abuse was mind blowing to me,” Runestad said.

A study by Nursing Home Abuse shows nearly 5 million elders are abused in nursing homes each year. In addition, 24.3% of those elders experience at least one instance of physical abuse, while others suffer from sexual and financial abuse. Finally, only 1 and 14 of elder abuse are formally reported.

If the bill is passed, Michigan would become one of seven states to allow cameras in nursing home rooms. It would allow families to view camera footage of their loved ones from their phones.

But Richie Farran from the Healthcare Association of Michigan says adding the cameras would be an invasion of privacy.

“Recording their most intimate moments, including medical care in their rooms that are really their bedrooms, violates their rights to privacy of the residents we serve,” Farran said.

While cameras may not entirely prevent the abuse from happening, Runestad says if the bill is passed, it would allow abuse victims to use the video against their abusers in court.

When 16 News Now asked 30-year Michiana medical professional Patricia Hill about the proposed bill, she said she has seen elder abuse many times in the workplace and said adding cameras may be the only way that could stop it.

“There are HIPPA laws, there’s all kinds of practices, there’s rules, there’s policies; I mean, all of the things they have done to date so far, it hasn’t protected the elderly,” Hill said.

Michigan lawmakers will be working on securing the language of the bill next week.

Runestad says he expects lawmakers to vote on the bill in the next 30 days.