The subject of keeping cameras in nursing home residents’ rooms has been the source of growing debate recently, and states have progressively moved toward passing and enacting laws that permit residents to keep cameras in their rooms. This is different than keeping cameras in common spaces and hallways, and does implicate certain privacy concerns. Yet the advantages of using a camera allows residents and their family members to observe just exactly what goes on in their rooms, including any type of abuse or neglect at the hands of nursing home staffers.
If nursing home staffers are aware that cameras are permitted in rooms, it could very well make them think twice about hurting a patient, or will keep them honest about providing adequate care, treatment and attention knowing that their visits will be monitored. It is also important to note that in no state has the use of a camera been mandated – only permitted. There is also a question of privacy for the nursing home staffers themselves, though the footage is intended to document visits and interactions while those staffers are on the job, so one might presume that they give up a certain level of privacy in the interest of transparency and safety for a facility’s residents. And privacy concerns for the residents can be alleviated on the simple idea that the patient or their family members make the choice to use the camera, as well as to bear the cost.
States like Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Washington all mandate that nursing homes permit cameras if residents want them. And other states like New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Ohio have benefited from camera footage showing abuse or neglect so that the states could discipline or prosecute offenders for abuse or neglect, as well as to generally investigate certain homes.
Developments in Illinois
Illinois has been another state to consider permitting cameras in nursing home rooms. In recent months, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan came out in strong support of the use of cameras. In recent news, Attorney General Madigan’s office has actually drafted a bill that would allow residents to choose to keep cameras in their rooms. For those residents suffering from mental infirmities such as dementia or Alzheimer’s, the bill would give those residents’ legal guardians or certain family members the power to consent on their loved ones’ behalf. While residents and their families will generally have to pay for the cameras, the bill allots money to assist those who are unable to afford one so that they have the opportunity to use one.
According to the state representative who will introduce the bill to the legislature, and as reported by the Chicago Tribune, cameras/monitoring systems for nursing home rooms can cost anywhere between $200 to $1,000, meaning they certainly are not cheap particularly for a patient relying on assistance or Medicaid. To help address privacy concerns for visitors who do not work for the nursing home (such as friends and other family), the bill also mandates that facilities post visible signs that warn visitors to the building that rooms are monitored, that staff be notified ahead of time, and that the cameras would have to be visible in the room.
Naturally, concerns of privacy must be balanced with concerns for safety and transparency. In a state with thousands upon thousands (according to the Tribune, 19,000) reports of abuse or neglect every year, cameras can act not just as a method of gathering evidence, but as a method of deterrence. If the legislature passes the bill and the governor signs it, it would go into effect starting in 2016.
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