COLUMBIA – A new law allows nursing home residents to install cameras in their rooms.
House Bill 1387 lets residents’ families monitor their loved ones at any time and report any abuse or neglect.
The daughters of Eva Schminkey, who lived at a Columbia nursing home for about seven years, said they wished this law had been in effect before their mother died on Aug. 2.
Before Schminkey died at the age of 92, at least one of her daughters visited just about every day. That was before facilities stopped allowing visitors due to COVID-19.
Syndi Smith, one of Schminkey’s daughters, said it was uncomfortable when her sister, Kandy Hathaway, who used to visit every day, wasn’t allowed in.
“We had no idea what was going on. And in the end, we had no idea that she was as close to death as she was,” Smith said.
Schminkey’s daughters took her out of the nursing home on July 31. She went into a coma on Aug. 1 and died the next day.
Her daughters think having the option to install a camera in their mother’s room could have allowed them to better understand their mother’s condition and to be with her as her health declined.
Rep. Jim Murphy, R-St. Louis, sponsored the bill that allows families to do just that.
While cases of neglect and abuse were his primary motivation for passing the law, he hopes it can help people like Hathaway and Smith.
“These are two-way cameras for the most part,” Murphy said. “You can verbally talk to them and they can talk back to you, so it allows for visitation at any time, which is something that’s just not available right now. And families yearn for them and patients yearn for that – they’re feeling isolated and that’s bad for their health, frankly.”
Murphy said bills similar to this one have been introduced over the years but weren’t ever passed because those involved were hung up on the video itself.
“As it was being transmitted out of their facility, they had no control over it,” said Murphy. “They didn’t want their staff becoming YouTube sensations if they dropped a bedpan or something like that.”
A compromise was eventually met that allowed for joint ownership of the feed. Neither the facility or the resident’s family could release video without the permission of the other, except in cases involving abuse and neglect.
With many nursing homes still not allowing visitors, families aren’t able to bring residents cameras and help them with the installation.
Murphy said that the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services has two liaisons available to help residents and families navigate the setup process and communicate with nursing facilities.
According to the Missourian, the contact information for the liaisons are
- Alex Tuttle — 573-751-6008, Alex.Tuttle@health.mo.gov
- Shelly Williamson — 573-526-4872, Shelly.Williamson@health.mo.gov
Missouri released revised guidance last Tuesday for allowing visitors at nursing facilities. The final decision to allow visitors or not is up to the facility.