With Elder Abuse on The Rise, Wisconsin Looks at New Way to Prosecute Offenders
Horrific. Demonic. These are the words some nursing home residents (and their family members) are using to describe their abusers. And if the thought of having your loved one beaten, left without food or resting in dirty linens, being overmedicated, sexually abused, robbed, or neglected is painful to think about, the process to prosecute a guilty party without any physical evidence can be even more gut-wrenching. Because most investigators have only the victim’s statements to go on, police struggle to build cases on just accusations. More so, the most vulnerable nursing home residents, those with cognitive issues or memory diseases, may not be able to speak up or even be aware of the abuse.
As these cases increase every year across the nation, it’s simple to see that getting away with elder abuse is just too easy. Cases remain unresolved because of the lack of evidence needed to prosecute nursing home mistreatment or crime and the trends continue. Illinois, including Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Washington, and Maryland have already passed laws allowing some form of surveillance in nursing homes. In addition, Wisconsin’s Attorney General Brad Schimel recently decided enough-is-enough after county data reported 7,019 complaints in 2016, up 21 percent from just three years earlier. The state has announced a move to stop abuse by gathering reliable evidence for prosecutions via state loaned surveillance cameras to family members, free of charge for 30 days, so they can secretly record staff suspected of abusing their loved ones. This move, which is only the second video surveillance loaner program of its kind in the U.S., the other in New Jersey, has ignited protests by the elderly care industry, providers and privacy advocates.