Death of nursing home patient shows need for Runestad bill

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Jim Runestad said Friday that the recent tragic and preventable death of a 75-year-old Detroit nursing home resident who was severely beaten demonstrates the need for his bill allowing residents to install cameras in their rooms.

The 20-year-old resident of Westwood Nursing Center who attacked Norman Bledsoe in May by repeatedly punching him was reportedly placed in the home to recover from his COVID-19 infection based on the governor’s directive.

“Not only do seniors face the threat of COVID-19-positive patients being put in their nursing homes and exposing them to the virus, but they also continue to face the ever-present possibility of elder abuse,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “My thoughts and prayers are with Norman’s family during this time. I hope justice will be served. Going forward, we must do much more to protect our loved ones from abuse.”

One in six seniors aged 60 or older have experienced some form of abuse in the past year alone, according to the World Health Organization.

Runestad’s measure, Senate Bill 77, which passed unanimously out of the Senate Health Policy and Human Services Committee, would give residents and their families the option of installing a camera in their own room if they so choose.

Currently in the state of Michigan, nursing home administrators can — and nearly always do — prevent residents and their families from setting up a camera.

Runestad’s bill would enshrine this right for these residents and their families. Under the legislation, if a resident is sharing a room with others, all residents of the room would have to sign off on having the camera.

Signs would have to be posted at the entrance of the room, and residents or their family members would have to be responsible for installing and monitoring the camera. Other provisions in the bill would protect patients’ medical privacy.

“How tragic that it takes the death of an innocent man to convince us that we should be doing more to protect the most vulnerable in our nursing homes,” Runestad said. “Nursing home residents should be allowed to install their own camera in their own room if they choose.

“Cameras will help deter abusive and neglectful behavior and give peace of mind to the families of residents. They can deliver justice and answers for the families of victims of abuse.”

Runestad encouraged everyone to sign his petition letting leaders in Michigan know that residents should be allowed to install a camera in their nursing home if they wish.

SB 77 awaits action on the Senate floor.