Keeping Nursing Home Patients Safe With Cameras

Cameras to Help with Nursing Home SafetyThe installation of cameras and audio recording devices have been proposed for Illinois nursing homes resident rooms to allow families to keep better tabs on loved ones.

The Illinois Attorney General’s Office has proposed a bill allowing camera monitoring inside nursing homes to provide peace of mind to the patient’s family. This move is drawing a guarded look from advocates of elder care, who are concerned about invading the privacy of senior citizens. In response, Democratic Waukegan State Sen. Terry Link is sponsoring the bill that would allow in-room patient monitoring.

The proposal by the state’s Attorney General Lisa Madigan would allow audio recording and video cameras be placed inside nursing homes upon the resident’s consent. The cost involved would be transferred to the resident and/or family members.

The Proposal’s Intent

The Attorney General believes that placing cameras in nursing homes could deter neglect and abuse in facilities were abuse occurs. The intention of the proposal is to hold individuals acting negligent accountable for their action. Madigan claims that neglect and abuse in nursing facilities is an all too common problem, where victims lack proper care in a safe environment.

Currently enforced Illinois law does not permit the installation of cameras and nursing home resident rooms. Conversely, the proposal hopes the installation of cameras on the resident’s consent will be helpful in minimizing or eliminating abuse and neglect.

However, obtaining consent might be challenging to obtain among many of the elderly living in long-term care. This is because many residents suffer mental incapacity due to a variety of medical conditions including a stroke. In many incidences, it would be challenging to determine what the resident wants, due to their diminished ability to communicate or make an informed decision.

The Need for Action

Madigan says the need for action would provide peace of mind to families that are physically unable to be in the nursing home at all times. The Attorney General contends she is not advocating the creation of a reality show by peering into the private lives of nursing home residents.

Abuse and neglect in nursing homes are rampant in the state of Illinois. In fact, the state’s Department of Public Health manages over 19,000 calls every year of complaints of alleged abuse. The department responds to approximately one out of every four calls. The high incident rate of reported alleged abuse and neglect supports the notion of taking action is necessary to fulfill the need to eliminate the problem.

The Healthcare Council of Illinois issued a statement claiming that nursing home resident safety remains the highest priority. However, Pam Comstock, the council’s executive director, notes that the resident’s privacy continues to be serious concern.

States with Similar Laws

If the proposal were enacted into law, Illinois would be the sixth state allowing audio and video electronic monitoring devices of consenting patients in their room in nursing facilities. Maryland, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and the state of Washington currently have similar enacted laws allowing electronic monitoring.

This is not the Attorney General’s first attempt to enact similar legislation in the state. Previous efforts were unsuccessful because of the pushback from nursing home lobbying against proposals in the past. The concern of nursing home industry’s is over the right to privacy of the resident, and any potential downside to retaining quality staff who know they are continually under a watchful eye.

An Increasingly Aging Population

Madigan addresses many of the concerns of the nursing home industry in this new proposed bill, including asking residents and family members to make the decision to install cameras and cover all costs. It is her belief that the need to monitor nursing homes and staff for abuse and neglect will continue to escalate as a greater proportion of the population of Illinois continues to grow older. Currently, Illinois has 1200 nursing homes with over 100,000 residents.

At this point, no one understands how widespread camera use in nursing home resident rooms will become. However, some action needs to be taken as a way to minimize or eliminate the high number of reported allegations of abuse and neglect to the aging population in the state. Many of these residents are unable to properly care for themselves or complain when being mistreated or neglected by individuals paid to provide their care.

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