Legislation that would allow residents of assisted living centers to place a recording device in their room was debated by the House Health and Human Services Committee Monday.
HB 124 – Monitoring Equipment in a Care Facility, which is sponsored by Representative Timothy Hawkes (Republican – Centerville), allows an assisted living facility resident – or their representative – to install a video or audio monitoring device in the resident’s room.
“In our own home, if we want to install a camera nobody is going to tell us we can’t. If we rent an apartment from somebody and we want to install a camera in that room for whatever reason for our security or whatever, nobody’s going to tell us that we can’t. A room in an assisted living facility, for many of these people, is the only home that they have. If they or their legal representative see a value in installing a camera there, then this simply allows them the option to do so, no more, no less. It seems to me that with the protections in place, that they really ought to have that right to do that if they see fit,” Hawkes told the committee.
Under the bill, assisted living facilities will be prohibited from denying an individual admission to the facility or discharging a resident from the facility solely because of their wish to install such equipment. In addition, written permission from any roommates – or their legal representative – will be required.
For Laurel Barrus, it is a deeply personal issue. Early in 2015, her father, aged 89, was living in a $7,000-a-month skilled nursing facility when she said he was deprived of oxygen for ten hours because certified nursing assistants (CNA) forgot to put his oxygen mask on him before bed. “His heart went into stress. He threw a large clot to the brain. He was unable to speak, swallow, or move for the last five days of his life,” she said. If there had been a camera in his room, she could have checked on him and seen that he was missing his oxygen mask, Barrus reasoned.
“These are young kids running these facilities. I saw the administrator in the hall and told him what happened. He said, ‘I’ve got paperwork that proves he was checked on by a nurse every two hours.’ I wish there was a camera in his room so I could get an unbiased view,” Barrus concluded.
Jared Nye, president of the Utah Assisted Living Association, expressed his “strong opposition” to the bill due to concerns over privacy and security. “As far as the falls and everything, that is a concern that we have as facilities but a camera would not stop that fall from happening. Truly, if families are unhappy with certain care given in a facility, there’s no rule that they can’t go searching for a different facility that might meet the level of care that they’re expecting, said Nye.
Representative Rebecca Chavez-Houck (Democrat – Salt Lake City) also noted concerns over privacy and believes more work needs to done on the legislation.
In the end, the committee advanced the bill on a 9-1 vote.