According to a recent report, a local Chicago news team examined the issue of placing cameras inside nursing homes to document what goes on. According to an article from the news investigation, it is not against the law for a family to place a camera inside a relative’s nursing home to record what goes on in that room. In light of an age of surveillance not just by government but by citizens of their own private homes, Illinois nursing homes comprise some locations where such cameras generally do not exist. There is no law or regulation mandating their usage, although other states are entertaining the idea of legislating such video documentation. Some families indicated a fear of retaliation for using cameras and thus avoid it altogether, and the nursing homes reserve the right to remove the cameras or discharge the patient because of use of the cameras. Thus there are risks in doing so that might chill any motivation to record how one’s family member is treated and cared for.
Nursing Home Camera Use Across the Country
In Oklahoma City, a family that used a video camera in their elderly mother’s room discovered heinous abuse against her by staffers, including shoving latex gloves into her mouth and taunting her, hitting her on the head and mocking her while also throwing her around the room and pressing hard on her chest in the form of chest compressions. She died relatively soon after the abuse and the staffer even went to jail. Oklahoma subsequently passed a bill to allow surveillance cameras in the rooms of long term care facilities on a voluntary basis. While you can count other states with similar laws on one hand, Illinois is not one of them. Texas, for example, a camera inside a patient resident’s room recorded abuse of the patient at the hands of two staffers, who were subsequently fired and charged criminally. Sadly, the patient soon died. (Even more sickening, the camera belonged to the aides who proactively filmed the abuse to share with friends.) Texas, along with Oklahoma and New Mexico, by law permit residents to use cameras in their own rooms, while other states consider the possibility. With such laws, the nursing homes that discover the cameras then cannot remove the cameras without breaking the law.
Cameras have also recorded neglect and abuse in nursing homes in New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The Ohio Attorney General conducted an investigation of long term care facilities within his state by using cameras in residents’ rooms with the patients’ families’ permission. Evidence gathered has led to at least one shutdown of a facility, and possibly more to come. New York’s Attorney General also conducted a similar investigation, which led to felony and misdemeanor charges against 17 nurses or nurse assistants in Buffalo. As recorded by camera footage, these aides did not give out necessary pain medication, failed to assist with certain bodily functions for some residents, and failed to even simply check on residents. These aides even recorded that they provided all necessary, thus lying on their logs and forms.
The Future of Nursing Home Cameras
In light of recent movements to enhance patients’ rights, including drafting a beefed up nursing home patient’s “bill of rights,” the efforts to improve nursing home care could eventually lead to increased use of surveillance or even mandated surveillance to document any abuse or neglect, and even financial fraud, and ensure it does not happen in the future. Of course there are privacy concerns for the resident patients, but their willingness or family’s willingness to waive that issue could lead to more voluntarily use of cameras that the nursing home could not remove if the law says so. While regulation in the manner of usage will be an important consideration, the overall effect of using cameras could lead to ferreting out poor (and criminal) caretakers, and ultimately improving nursing home care.
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