DAVID JOLES – STAR TRIBUNE FILE. In 2017, Lisa Papp-Richards installed a camera to monitor the care of her mother, Mary Ann Richards, 77, at a nursing home in Bemidji, taking advantage of a new law that permits electronic monitoring devices in senior facilities.
At 2 a.m. on a November morning, Shirley Breitman began to scream for help from the bed of her assisted-living facility in St. Louis Park.
Her pained cries were streamed live to the smartphones of Breitman’s two adult children — Richard in Minneapolis and Laurie in Los Angeles — through an internet-connected camera placed in her bedroom. Within minutes, Richard was on the phone with the facility’s nursing staff, asking them to check on their 98-year-old mother, who has advanced dementia and was experiencing an adverse reaction to new medication.
“Once you install one of these cameras, you can’t imagine living without it,” said Breitman, an attorney. “It gives you peace of mind knowing that another set of eyes is on our mother.”
In recent years, a raft of new video surveillance technology has made it possible for families to monitor the daily movements and care of their aging relatives with remarkable clarity and precision. Yet Minnesota law has long been silent on whether people actually had the right to install such equipment in residents’ rooms at care facilities, an omission that sowed confusion and conflicts between families and senior homes.
Now, after years of legal wrangling, state law is finally clear: Minnesotans have the right to use electronic monitoring devices in most senior care facilities, provided they notify the facility and obtain consent from residents being monitored. Effective this month, nursing homes and assisted-living facilities across the state are required to inform residents of their right to use the cameras.
The small, internet-enabled cameras can bring peace of mind to families who suspect abuse of a loved one, or who simply want to keep better tabs on their care. The remote monitoring systems, which can be purchased online for less than $200, have become increasingly sophisticated. People can now receive automatic alerts to their smartphones when someone enters a loved one’s room, or when there is unusual activity or sound.