Could Video Cameras Help Prevent Abuse in Nursing Homes?

You’ve done the research, visited several facilities and settled on the nursing home that you believe is the right fit for your loved one. But how do you make sure they are safe once they move into the facility? Some families are turning to video cameras to literally keep an eye on their loved ones for signs of nursing home abuse or neglect.

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A New York Times article tells the story of Cindy King, who sought to put a camera in her mother’s Chicago nursing home after her mother complained about a staff member being “mean” to her and elbowing her in the chest. King had chosen the facility because it was close to her home but felt like the video camera would give her more information to protect her mother.

The nursing home did not allow the camera, citing federal privacy laws under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Many nursing homes use this law to prohibit cameras, according to the article.

The office of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan drafted legislation that would allow nursing home residents and their families to place cameras if the resident or family pays for and installs the camera.

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In a blog post from The Pew Charitable Trusts, Madigan stated the Illinois Department of Public Health gets nearly 19,000 calls a year about suspected abuse or neglect in nursing homes, and responds to more than 5,000 complaints. Installing cameras would be an easy and inexpensive way to monitor a loved one’s care, she said.

“Residents and family members should have the option, for their own peace of mind, to monitor what is taking place,” Madigan said in the blog item. “If something goes wrong, you can see what actually happened.”

If the legislation becomes law, Illinois would become the fifth state, along with New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington, to have a law or regulation that specifically allows nursing home residents to install cameras in their rooms. Maryland permits cameras if the facility allows them. South Carolina law does not directly address the issue.

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The Pew blog reported that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General’s Office said 85 percent of nursing facilities reported at least one allegation of abuse or neglect to the agency in a single recent year, and estimated about 60,000 allegations involved staffers abusing or neglecting residents.

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Cameras have proven their ability to record neglect and mistreatment in nursing homes. In Pennsylvania, New Jersey and other states, hidden cameras installed by family members captured images of mistreatment, according to the Pew blog. State attorneys general in Ohio and New York have used undercover video surveillance in residents’ rooms – with family members’ permission – to uncover abuse or neglect, resulting in arrests or indictments.

If you suspect a loved one has been a victim of abuse or neglect at a nursing home, it’s very important to contact a qualified nursing home neglect lawyer as soon as possible to help you navigate the legal process and keep your loved one safe. You and your loved one may also be entitled to significant compensation.

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