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Senior surveillance proposed in care facilities

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Nevada’s Legislature is considering a bill that would allow patients in care facilities or their families or guardians install surveillance devices in the patients’ rooms. Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, told the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee that SB290 would protect seniors in hospices, nursing homes and other group home settings from abuse, and would comfort guardians of such patients who might live far away. "The capabilities of monitoring from a remote location provide a sense of security to both the facility and the residents," said Cegavske, the bill’s primary sponsor.

Sen. Cegavske introduced the bill after her mother suffered an unexplained hand injury her while in a Minnesota nursing home last year. Cegavske’s mother has Alzheimer’s disease and can no longer play the piano as a result of the injury.

Another backer of the bill is Sen. Lillian Mandel, who said her mother was abused twice last year in a nursing home. She said one of the incidents involved a diaper shoved in her mother’s mouth. "I realized I needed some kind of evidence in my mother’s room to protect her and any senior around because this is totally unacceptable," Mandel said, adding that the cases involving those responsible for abusing her mother were eventually resolved.

Renny Ashleman, a Nevada Health Care Association representative opposed the bill, saying its intent was good but remote monitoring of patients could conflict with state and federal patient privacy laws. Ashleman used the example of patients who wander into a room of another patient who had such a monitoring device but who wouldn’t understand they’re being monitored even if signs noting their use were posted. Where is the right to privacy in another person’s room? Does the right of stranger to privacy override a concern for the well being of a loved one?

The Associated Press new release Rachel Gines indicated that changes to the bill made in the Senate specified that the monitoring devices use video without sound and require the guardian of a patient to obtain any permits to install such equipment in compliance with facility codes. She also noted that another change would release the facility from liability arising from any issues involving the monitoring device. I have not read the bill and the article gave no explanation of what is meant by release of liability, but I hope it does not mean that if the video catches abuse of a patient, the patient cannot be compensated for those injuries.

I have heard of instance where family members who were suspicious of neglect or abuse occurring had hidden a video camera and captured that abuse on film. Isn’t the real issue here the welfare of the patients in these facilities? If it takes videos to protect a loved one, the healthcare industry should support their use.