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Lawmakers returned to the Minnesota State Capitol Jan. 8, 2019, for the reconvening of the Legislature. Michael Brun / Forum News Service

Proposal to allow secret 'granny cams' moves forward at the Capitol

ST. PAUL -- Residents of Minnesota nursing homes and assisted living facilities or family members would be allowed to place secret cameras in their rooms to monitor their quality of care under a proposal advanced Wednesday, Feb. 6, in the Legislature.

The Senate Committee on Family Care and Aging passed Senate File 11 on to the Senate Health and Human Services Finance and Policy Committee after several family members whose relatives had been abused or neglected in senior housing facilities shared their emotional stories.

Under the proposal, the person being monitored in the recordings must consent to the presence of the cameras or if they aren't able to consent, their doctor can sign off on the use of the cameras. If a resident is living in with a roommate, that person must provide consent to allow the recordings or that roommate's representative must sign off on his or her behalf.

Increased reports of abuse and neglect among Minnesota seniors in nursing home and assisted living facilities have raised questions about whether state law allows seniors or their families to secretly record their care.

The proposal is a piece of a broader effort to prevent elder abuse in Minnesota and it came after extensive discussions between elder advocate groups, care providers, affected family members and others.

A sticking point between the groups was whether the cameras could be placed without notifying a nursing home or assisted living facility. The proposal indicates that under most circumstances, a resident or family member would notify staff of the camera, but in cases where a resident fears retaliation, neglect is reported or the Office of the Ombudsman for Long-Term Care signs off, the cameras can be installed without the facility knowing.

Michelle Wood told the committee her mother reported repeated concerns with her care and was retaliated against. She urged lawmakers to pass the bill and said it was critical that older adults not be required to give consent for the cameras in front of nursing home staff.

“We can’t wait for another legislative session,” Wood said. “My mother can’t wait another year.”

Toby Pearson, vice president of Advocacy for Care Providers of Minnesota, said the organization supports the bill but insisted that giving the facilities notice of the cameras would help care providers ensure residents are safe and act as a "deterrent" against possible bad actors.

“If we know about it, we can help protect the privacy of that individual,” Pearson said.

The measure passed through the committee on a voice vote, but some members said more needed to be done to ensure that seniors, whether or not they have cameras, receive protection against abuse and neglect from the state.

"What it points out is the abject failure of our governing bodies," Sen. Mark Koran, R-North Branch, said. “This is crisis and we need to make sure we get those agencies to do something different."