Senate passes Runestad bill providing peace of mind to families of nursing home residents

LANSING, Mich. — The Senate on Thursday unanimously approved legislation to help ensure the welfare of nursing home residents and 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.

“Unfortunately, events earlier this year reiterated the need for this legislation,” said Runestad, R-White Lake. “We hope that every incident of abuse toward an elderly person is the last we will ever see, but that is not the case. Allowing the video monitoring of nursing home residents’ rooms will help prevent further 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. “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.

Runestad said it is his hope that the mere presence of a camera will serve as a deterrent to future instances of abuse.

“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 the Michigan House for further consideration.