A major controversy discussed multiple times here, across the state of Illinois, and across the United States, has been the issue of allowing hidden cameras in nursing homes. The proposition of using hidden cameras to document such abuse and neglect has gained momentum in recent months and years. Some states, like Oklahoma, Washington, Texas, New Mexico and Maryland, actually permit the use of hidden cameras, and others are contemplating legislation to do just that. This trend demonstrates the recognized importance of closely monitoring the behavior of nursing home and long-term care facility doctors, nurses, nursing aides, and other staffers.
Illinois is one such state that is seemingly moving toward explicitly legalizing the use of hidden cameras in nursing homes. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has been working on a draft bill that would permit nursing home residents and/or their families to use hidden cameras to capture footage in the patients’ rooms. These rooms can often be the sites of elder abuse, neglect, and theft of property by nursing home workers.
A key portion of the legislation, if it goes through, would specify that it would be up to the residents and their families whether to use cameras and nursing home staff would not be able to access them. This is important because obviously allowing the staff access to the cameras would invite sabotage in an effort to cover up whatever footage might be captured. As reported, the bill could be introduced in the state legislature as early as the start of 2015, and could potentially take effect one year later. As of now, the more than 1,000 nursing homes across Illinois can implement laws that ban the use of cameras. Naturally it may seem to be in the interest of those facilities and staff members to ensure no footage is captured. If it becomes law, this new bill would ensure such rules would be unlawful.
The Benefit of Cameras
The positives of using cameras are fairly obvious. Cameras would help capture incriminating activity so that staffers could be disciplined, fired, or even prosecuted if possible, and it would be evidence if a resident has an injury or other issue as a result of abuse or neglect that was not previously known, but requires attention. And where it is known that cameras are in rooms, or could be, this would deter improper behavior, or motivate staffers to be more on top of their patients.
The new law would potentially include a requirement that a warning be posted, but this would itself serve as a deterrent to bad behavior, as reports have suggested. The negative is the issue of privacy for residents, but this would be somewhat overcome by their willingness to have cameras in their rooms. Critics, which naturally include the nursing homes and administrators, have also cited the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which is a federal law that protects the privacy of one’s medical information save for a waiver of that privacy. But again, the permission of the residents and/or families would be enough to overcome this. HIPAA protects individuals, not doctors, hospitals or nursing homes.
It will be important for those considering residency at a nursing home for themselves or their families, or for those living in or with loved ones already in nursing homes, to monitor the progress of this bill. With negligent and abusive staffers, and homes reducing staff sizes to keep down overhead and reduce profits, a wary eye, even if electronic, may be very necessary to ensure the safety and well-being of our loved ones in nursing homes.
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