The abuse and neglect of nursing home residents in Illinois and across the country is a serious – and growing – problem.
As the National Center on Elder Abuse reports, several studies published in recent years underscore the need to do more to protect residents from harm and improve the quality of care they receive. For instance:
A problem is that many nursing home residents who are abused or neglected cannot speak up for themselves due to their age or disability. Meanwhile, their family members may have no idea that their loved one is being mistreated.
To address this issue, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan called last September for legislation that would allow nursing home residents and their families to install audio and video monitoring equipment in the residents’ rooms.
The aim is to deter and detect nursing home abuse and neglect. Knowing their actions will be caught on camera, nursing home staff members would hopefully refrain from harming residents. And if they did mistreat a resident, the cameras could provide clear evidence for use in civil and criminal actions.
(A jury in Oklahoma, for instance, recently returned a $1.2 million verdict on behalf of a nursing home resident’s family after video showed staff members hitting the resident on the head and stuffing latex gloves in her mouth.)
On February 13, 2015, State Representative Greg Harris (D-Chicago) took up Madigan’s call by introducing a new bill, HB 2462, or “The Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act.”
Currently, five other states – Texas, New Mexico, Maryland, Washington and Oklahoma – allow cameras in nursing homes to monitor residents’ rooms. The bill proposed in Illinois, HB 2462, builds on those states’ laws and regulations.
Under H.B. 2462, a nursing home resident would need to consent in writing to having audio and video monitoring equipment installed in his or her room. It would require filling out a consent form.
Unless the resident has affirmatively objected to the monitoring, the resident’s appointed guardian could authorize it or, if the resident is deemed by a doctor to lack the capacity to consent, the following could authorize it (in order):
The resident would need to pay for the equipment and its installation (including contracting with an Internet service provider). However, the nursing home could not charge the resident an “electricity fee” to keep it running. The Illinois Department of Public Health would provide $50,000 each year, by lottery selection, to help eligible residents buy and install the devices.
A nursing home could not deny admission or discharge a resident who chooses to have the monitoring equipment installed. If a nursing home discriminated or retaliated against a resident in that way, the home could be fined up to $10,000. If the home tried to prevent the monitoring, it could face a $1,000 fine.
Additionally, under HB 2462, any person who knowingly hampers, obstructs, tampers with or destroys the electronic monitoring equipment would face a Class B misdemeanor. A person would face Class A misdemeanor or Class 4 felony charges if they were trying to conceal a criminal act.
Any images or recording captured by the equipment would be considered the personal property of the resident. The nursing home would have no right to access the recording without written consent.
Finally, images and recording could be admitted as evidence in criminal, civil or administrative actions arising from suspected abuse or neglect – as long as the content was not edited or “artificially enhanced” and included date and time stamps.
Some in the nursing home industry are hesitant to support the proposed legislation.
For instance, in a statement provided to ABC7 News, Pat Comstock of the Health Care Council of Illinois stated that “[p]rivacy and dignity in a health care setting are serious concerns.”
An official from the American Health Care Association told The Pew Charitable Trusts that a related concern is staff turnover due to nursing home employees seeking work “where they aren’t constantly under scrutiny.”
The Illinois bill appears to address privacy concerns by requiring:
The reality is that the need to prevent and uncover nursing home abuse and neglect is too great to ignore. If enacted, HB 2462 would appear to provide another tool that can be used by residents and their families to stop mistreatment and hold wrongdoers accountable.
To learn more about what can be done to address the suspected abuse or neglect of your loved one in Chicago or elsewhere in Illinois, contact Salvi, Schostok & Pritchard P.C. We can provide a free and confidential consultation.