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Suspicious of Nursing Home Neglect? Try a Camera

Thu 5 Feb, 2015 / by / Nursing Home Injury

Once a man, twice a child, so it’s said. During the large amount of time that people cannot be present to visit their loved ones in nursing homes, they worry. They shouldn’t have to worry – supposedly daily supervision and care is exactly what makes a nursing home so costly- but it’s a legitimate fear. The recurring telltale signs we hear in meeting with nursing home neglect cases are complaints that the nursing home paid little attention to diet, to eating or swallowing difficulties, to proper hydration, or simply to check and see if everything’s okay with the resident. These routine issues that go unaddressed are extremely frustrating and unnerving to families, but 99 times out of 100 they become accepted as the way it is. Everyone holds their breath that the errors and neglect will be limited to small oversights that do some, if not great, harm.

Well, we don’t end up seeing the cases where they do some harm, but in the others, these small issues become the writing on the wall that should have foreshadowed the serious harm (or death) that ends up happening. In several cases we have, it appears the nursing home also falsified retain records to hide medications that weren’t administered, indicate checks that didn’t occur, or reflect physical rehab activity that never happened. The vital issue here is simply knowledge: how do you know what’s going on when you’re not there? How can you be sure?

We have nanny cams. It’s accepted that we watch out for our babies, making sure the sitter isn’t being neglectful or worse. Yet it is far from common that this could be a protection for a loved one in a nursing home – and why not? For many the situation is unfortunately very much the same as caring for a baby that cannot help herself. Many elderly residents have issues with memory that make them poor historians, emphasizing a need even more for oversight during those hours that family cannot be present. The peace of mind for family is well worth the cost of an investment in a camera.

So is it so simple? You may be wondering why everyone isn’t doing it.

In a word: yes, it is. At least, it is now. We wrote fairly recently on our Facebook page about changes in Illinois’ Eavesdropping Law. Basically, a 50-year-old law making the recording of others felonious was finally declared unconstitutional this spring by the Illinois Supreme Court. Until (or if) a new law is passed by the Illinois legislature, the doors have opened to being able to put a camera in a nursing home resident’s room without fear of legal repercussions.

Let’s be clear: we aren’t the first to think of the idea to put a camera in a nursing home room. The New York Attorney General did it in 2006 CLICK HERE for NY Times Article and found shocking and selfish instances of rampant neglect by staff. Five states have specifically instated cameras as patient rights, beginning in Oklahoma because of another galling incident caught on camera there. CLICK HERE for story

In Illinois it arguably would not have been possible to do this until recently because of the eavesdropping law that banned recording. Now it isn’t. Nursing homes may try to say it’s a HIPAA violation to record or disclose medical services, but to this claim you should keep in mind that the patient can always consent/waive privacy as to his/her own treatment. So that’s a red herring. Although it’s likely now within your rights to put in a camera, we recommend focusing the camera on the bed of the resident to avoid recording other residents. It’s pretty easy to find an economical motion sensitive camera now too, which will also help avoid hours of recording nothing.ishot 2.0 alarm clock camera

On the other hand, if you feel tentative about how a nursing home would react to finding a camera or implementing the idea, think of a recent example of abuse that occurred much closer to home: in St. Charles, Illinois two staff members at Rosewood Care Center recorded physical abuse of an elderly resident. CLICK HERE for Rosewood case. We currently have cases in litigation against Rosewood from around Central Illinois. The problems are here just as much as they are anywhere else. You’re within your rights to install a camera in a room, but you have to be willing to stand firm on your rights for them to work for you and your loved ones.