Unlike the unsuspecting victims featured in the popular television series “Candid Camera,” today we expect that we are captured on a camera whenever we leave our homes. What if, for the safety or security of our loved ones, we want those cameras in our homes? Effective Nov. 1, state law extends the authorization for electronic monitoring to common areas and resident rooms in assisted living centers and continuum of care facilities.

Previously, devices were only allowed in the common areas or resident rooms of nursing facilities. A device, as defined in the law, may be installed with the consent of the resident or the resident’s representative, defined as a court-appointed guardian or, if there is no court-appointed guardian, the parent of a minor, a relative or other person designated in writing by the resident presumably through a power of attorney.

Facilities are not allowed to refuse admittance of an individual and shall not remove a resident because of authorized electronic monitoring. The resident or their representative may (and should) post a notice on the resident’s door stating that the room is being monitored. Before installing a monitoring device, a consent form as prescribed by the state Department of Health must be completed and delivered to the facility. Shared rooms require additional consents.

Sen. James Leewright of Bristow, who filed the legislation, said that he did so “because of a constituent who was threatened with eviction from their long-term care facility if the family didn’t remove the video equipment they’d installed to monitor the care of their loved one.”

Cameras can easily be obtained online for as little as $50 each, and are easily installed and programmed. The camera is connected to the internet so designated representatives or family can view the resident’s room in real time at any time. Audio is available as well as notifications of movement.

I am an advocate of cameras for the protection of the elderly and peace of mind for their family. My mother installed cameras in parts of her home several years ago. My siblings and I can make sure she is upright, eating adequately and healthy without disturbing her independence. She feels more comfortable knowing that we check on her regularly.

This legislation would have been particularly helpful during the COVID-19 lockdown. Many families who found themselves shut out of facilities would have been comforted tremendously with the ability to see that their loved one are doing OK.

Today, we all have the right to protect vulnerable loved ones with cameras in Oklahoma because of this new legislation. But what are the practical and legal implications for residents, caregivers and assisted living facilities?

The new law significantly impacts some families’ estate planning, given that families and attorneys will now be able to include language in the living will or in the health care power of attorney regarding electronic monitoring of a family member.

But what does this bill mean for owners and operators of long-term care facilities? Caregivers and assisted living facilities may raise privacy concerns. Consider the fact that some residents have roommates. There would also be privacy concerns if family members were listening in on meetings with professional advisers or just visiting with friends.

Unlike a private home, some assisted living rooms are relatively small, so there would be very little room for privacy. Furthermore, some residents may not want to feel monitored at certain times in the day, such as bathing. The footage, which is property of the resident’s family, can be used as evidence of abuse in court, for example.

If you are considering the installation of a surveillance camera in your loved one’s nursing home room, either for peace of mind or the ability to see your relative in the event of another lockdown, please contact your attorney for guidance.

Lesa A. Creveling is executive vice president of Trust Company of Oklahoma. She is a licensed certified public accountant and attorney. She served as president of the Tulsa Estate Planning Forum and as an officer of the Oklahoma Bar Association Estate Planning, Probate and Trust section.

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