Jaclyn Petrizzo, of Manchester, left, and Kim Boulette, of Vernon, visit their mother and grandmother, Mildred Christadore, through the window. “It’s very important because we can’t go inside to see her and give her a hug right now,” Petrizzo said. “This is the closest connection we have to keeping in touch with her and her knowing that we’re here, we love her, care about her.” Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org
Kathy Moore, left, talks to her sister-in-law Ann Marie Lagrange, of Windsor Locks, through the window at Manchester Manor Health Care Center. Yehyun Kim / ctmirror.org

With the COVID-19 pandemic restricting the ways people can visit their loved ones in nursing homes, the state House of Representatives unanimously gave final passage Thursday to a bill that would allow for virtual monitoring and visitation through the use of cameras and other technology.

The measure permits the installation of cameras and the use of assistant devices like Amazon’s Alexa, along with other technology, but with several rules. The resident would be responsible for purchasing, setting up and maintaining the devices and must notify the facility at least seven days before installation. Each resident must have written consent from any roommates and adhere to privacy rules.

Nursing homes would be required to provide free internet access and a power source and must post signs notifying visitors that recording may be in progress. The facilities would be directed to establish policies and procedures for the technology.

The bill also applies to assisted living centers.

“It’s been a long time that we have tried to improve the quality of life in our nursing home facilities, and I’m truly delighted to see that we’re really going to allow for this free communication,” said Rep. Kathleen McCarty, R-Waterford. “These individuals, we know through the pandemic, really lost contact with a lot of the family members, so I think this is going to be a tremendous addition.”

Proposals allowing cameras in nursing homes have been floated for years in Connecticut but received a substantial push recently because of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the first stretch of the crisis, nursing home residents went for months at a time without seeing their loved ones. Visits were eventually done on iPads and through windows. Residents lamented not being able to keep an eye on the quality of care that their relatives in nursing homes were receiving.

“My father is currently in a nursing home, and with the COVID regulations still in place – and not being able to see him – we need to protect our long-term care residents,” said Rep. Holly Cheeseman, R-East Lyme. “This is a wonderful step in that direction.”

At least eight states, including Illinois, Texas, and Washington, allow cameras in nursing home rooms.

The measure also strengthens the so-called bill of rights for nursing home residents by adding that they have the right to treat their living quarters as their own home. It cleared the Senate last month.

The proposal is one of a number of bills aimed at reform in nursing homes. Others under consideration would boost minimum staffing, beef up infection prevention and control training and allow residents of long-term care facilities to designate an “essential support person” who may enter a nursing home in spite of visitor restrictions, among other changes.

So far, the camera bill is the only one to make it through both chambers. The session ends June 9.

Jenna is CT Mirror’s Health Reporter, focusing on health access, affordability, quality, equity and disparities, social determinants of health, health system planning, infrastructure, processes, information systems, and other health policy. Before joining CT Mirror Jenna was a reporter at The Hartford Courant for 10 years, where she consistently won statewide and regional awards. Jenna has a Master of Science degree in Interactive Media from Quinnipiac University and a Bachelor or Arts degree in Journalism from Grand Valley State University.