Yet another case of a video camera in a nursing home revealing abuse and neglect has come to light. A Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) from a nursing home in Pompano Beach, Florida was caught on hidden camera forcefully handling a 94 year old resident, including hitting him in the head, pushing him into a chair and pouring mouthwash on him while attempting to clean him and change his undergarments. The resident, unable to speak, wasn’t able to detail the abuse to his family, but after discovering stage III bed sores on her father, his daughter became concerned. She placed a video in her father’s room and saw multiple clips of the same nursing assistant abusing him. Products containing alcohol or other chemical agents can cause drying and breakdown of the skin, a contributing factor to pressure sores, especially for those who spend the majority of their time lying down or sitting. It is rare that nursing homes will admit to the occurrence of abuse, but in this case the video footage saved attorneys, authorities, and the court time significant time investigating the incident.
Cameras Legal in Illinois, but Cannot be Hidden
A Florida ABC news channel reviewed other hidden nursing home videos that showed one CNA removing a resident’s breathing tube and leaving the room, ignoring alarms indicating the resident was in danger. Five minutes later, another staff member came running to reinsert the tube and check the resident. Sadly, these recently released videos are not indicative of isolated cases of abuse and neglect. Earlier this month, a video was released of a WWII veteran dying while staff at an Atlanta nursing home laughed at his bedside. Despite the graphic, horrific nature of these videos, the impact of the images on the public and lawmakers seems fleeting.
Currently there are only 6 states in the country that allow recording devices to placed in nursing home rooms. In states like Georgia and Florida, the use of them is not illegal, but there are not laws specifically relating to their use. Attorneys representing nursing homes may be able to challenge the use of a video as evidence in court cases by citing local laws regarding video surveillance.
Illinois, along with Maryland, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington, allows the videos to be used, but requires signage indicating video recording is in progress, consent from roommates (if any), and the cost of the camera, installation, maintenance, and internet connectivity to be paid for by the resident or their loved ones.
Nursing Home Abuse More Common Than Facilities Let On
In an Office of the Inspector General (OIG) for the Department of Health & Human Services report this summer, it was revealed that 25% of all cases of abuse were not reported to local authorities, a requirement for nursing homes to continue to receive funding from Medicare and Medicaid, the primary source of payments for nursing homes in this country. If cases are not reported to police, it is just as likely that these incidents are not being reported to the loved ones of those who have suffered abuse. Even more alarming, of the cases that were serious enough to require a hospital visit, more than 40% were not reported to police.
While many other states are hoping to adopt legislation such as ours that would encourage cameras in nursing home rooms, the OIG report shows us that cameras are not a cure for the epidemic of nursing home abuse and neglect. A Florida Health Care Association spokesperson (which represents the majority of nursing homes in that state) told ABC 10 “cameras observe, they do not protect.”
Cameras may not fully prevent abuse and neglect, but they can be a valuable tool for providing peace of mind to family members. However, while they may be able to provide a sense of security, the sheer volume of both reported and unreported cases show us that they do not appear to be a full deterrent. Judging by our own state’s track record, until lawmakers begin adopting stronger laws that include consistent punishments, cameras are likely to make little difference.
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