© 2024 St. Louis Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

New Missouri Law Allows Families To Place Cameras Inside Nursing Homes

Royal Oak Nursing & Rehabilitation in St. Louis' Central West End neighborhood on April 22, 2020.
Eli Chen | St. Louis Public Radio
Missouri legislators recently passed a law that would prohibit nursing homes, like Royal Oak Nursing & Rehab in St. Louis, from evicting residents who want to install a camera in their rooms.

Guardians of nursing home residents in Missouri will soon be allowed to install cameras in facilities to monitor how workers provide care to their loved ones. 

The Missouri Legislature passed a law in mid-May to allow surveillance of residents’ rooms. Patient advocates say the measure could help families keep an eye on relatives they can’t visit during the coronavirus pandemic. 

Cameras would allow families to document abuse or workers not taking precautions against the coronavirus, said Marjorie Moore, executive director of VOYCE, a St. Louis advocacy group for long-term care residents.

“Throughout the pandemic, [residents] have to be the ones to speak up during this time. So if someone comes into their room without wearing a mask, they have to be able to speak up,” Moores said. “But you know, a lot of folks can’t. This allows us to say, 'Hey, this facility really needs some help.'” 

Many families have struggled during the pandemic to find out if their loved ones are being properly taken care of and if other residents have tested positive for the coronavirus. The bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Jim Murphy, R-St. Louis County, receives many calls from distressed family members.

“What I get now is, ‘What am I going to do? How do I see my loved one? And what are they doing in there? We don’t know what they’re doing in there,’” Murphy said. 

Patient advocates have tried for several years to convince state lawmakers to pass the bill. Previous versions of it have failed due to the nursing home industry’s concerns about patient and worker privacy. 

“They had concerns about what would happen if a nurse went into a room and dropped a bedpan, would she become a YouTube sensation?” Murphy said. 

To address privacy concerns, the bill was revised to make video recordings co-owned by the family and the nursing home. Both parties would have to agree to release any recordings, unless it captured any abuse or neglect that would be reported to state authorities. Facilities would be prohibited from evicting residents because they installed a camera inside their room. 

It would also require signs inside patients’ rooms that say the room is being monitored. Roommates or their guardians can request having the camera pointed away from them. 

Twelve states, including Illinois and Texas, allow nursing home residents and guardians to install cameras in their rooms.

Follow Eli on Twitter: @StoriesByEli

Our priority is you. Support coverage that’s reliable, trustworthy and more essential than ever. Donate today.

Send questions and comments about this story to feedback@stlpublicradio.org

Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.