ST. PAUL -- Residents of nursing homes and assisted living facilities now have the right to use electronic devices to monitor their care, thanks to a law passed by the Minnesota Legislature.

The new law is part of a series of protections written into the Elder Care and Vulnerable Adult Protection Act of 2019, which took effect on January 1. In August, Minnesota's Home Care Bill of Rights was also amended to include protections for residents who choose to install monitoring devices in assisted living and nursing homes.

Electronic monitoring involves the placement of a camera or video streaming device in a resident's room. The bill, which passed with wide bipartisan support, is a significant victory for elderly and vulnerable adults, says Cheryl Hennen, State Ombudsman for Long-Term Care.

“Prior to this, the law was silent," Hennen explains. "People have already been putting cameras in nursing home rooms and assisted living apartments. But, there was no guidance – there was nothing in the law that would support the right to place it there without someone coming to dismantle it.”

The new law prevents caregivers from tampering with a camera or video streaming device. Residents may surreptitiously install and run monitoring systems for 14 days, provided they notify the state ombudsman with the proper consent form. If a resident has a roommate, they must also provide consent.

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The legislation is the most significant reform to state law for elder care in decades, Hennen says.

"One of the pluses of the new law is that (residents) are introduced to the fact that they can obtain our services as advocates to help solve a problem," Hennen says. "In our experience, the reason people put cameras in is because something is not right."

Hennen says her office has been encouraged by the strong showing of support for the new law from both residents and care providers.

"We do know that there are providers out there who will proactively work with the resident or the family members, or both, to put a camera in," Hennen says. "We are very encouraged that, more often than not, we are working with providers who want to know when something is wrong."

 

To contact the Office of the Ombudsman for Long-Term Care, call 651-431-2555.