Legislature finalizes Runestad bill to protect nursing home residents from abuse

LANSING, Mich. — The Michigan Legislature on Friday gave final approval to legislation to protect nursing home residents and provide peace of mind for their loved ones, said sponsor Sen. Jim Runestad.

Senate Bill 77 would establish the right of a resident in a nursing home facility to have an electronic monitoring device installed under certain conditions.

“In a perfect world, we wouldn’t need this legislation, but unfortunately abuse occurs in nursing homes, so we must do what we can to help protect these residents,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “Having cameras in rooms will act as a powerful deterrent to abuse, enable communication between loved ones and help prevent future tragedies.”

In May, a 20-year-old resident recovering from the coronavirus was placed in the Westwood Nursing Center in Detroit, where he attacked 75-year-old resident Norman Bledsoe, repeatedly punching him. Bledsoe suffered four broken fingers, broken ribs and a broken jaw.

“Nobody should face this kind of abuse and suffering during their golden years after a lifetime of service to their neighbors, friends and family members,” Runestad said. “If you go on the internet, you will see countless sickening displays of violence directed at our most vulnerable citizens. By enabling residents to voluntarily place cameras in their own rooms, we are putting in place another level of accountability. This legislation will provide residents, families and facilities with the assurance that residents are being well cared for and treated properly.”

Runestad said the passage of his bill will provide a vital connection for family members to check in on their loved ones, since the governor has prohibited visitations to nursing homes, except through windows.

SB 77 states that a facility must make reasonable accommodations to allow for the mounting of an electronic camera and may not refuse to admit or remove a resident based on their request to install a device.

“Everyone deserves to be treated with decency and respect — especially our most vulnerable citizens confined to nursing care,” Runestad said.

SB 77 now heads to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to be signed into law.