Illinois’ Facility-Electronic Monitoring bill would be an important step in identifying and even preventing elder abuse in nursing homes. According to WREX, the measure has passed in the state legislature and is now simply waiting for the governor to sign it into law.
As any nursing home abuse attorney in McHenry would know, physical, emotional and other types of harm are inflicted upon adult care facility residents all too often. By taking the appropriate steps, facilities and family members can help reduce the incidence of abuse.
What the proposed law says
If passed, the law would make Illinois one of four states in the country that permits audio and video monitoring devices to be used in nursing homes at a resident’s request. Advocates say that the cameras could be placed in residents’ rooms and would serve the following purposes:
- Ensure patients are treated appropriately.
- Identify any instances of abuse.
- Provide evidence when there is a dispute over the care of a patient.
The law demands that residents and their roommates give consent to having a camera installed in the room. Further, as a nursing home abuse attorney in McHenry would recognize as key, it prevents a facility from retaliating against people who choose to use the cameras.
Concerns about the legislation
It would seem logical that everyone would be on board for a measure that prevents abuse. However, some facilities worry that not all residents in their care are able to consent to video recordings. Some people residing in these homes might lack the mental capacity to agree to the practice.
Further, administrators say that the cameras could invade on privacy, especially in situations in which there is more than one resident in a room or a resident has visitors. The care provided to patients is often private in nature or is supposed to be kept confidential.
Other concerns regarding cameras in nursing homes include that facilities worry the practice will discourage qualified workers from seeking employment. ABC News reports that the nursing home industry as a whole is not thrilled with camera surveillance, either. A spokesperson said that the cameras are an invitation for frivolous lawsuits.
Incidence of abuse
While there are opposing views on the cameras, one thing that cannot be denied is the prevalence of abuse. According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, staff members respond to more than 5,000 nursing home complaints every year.
On a national level, the National Center for Biotechnology Information reports that roughly 2.5 million people are living in either a nursing home or adult care facility. These people are at a much higher risk of abuse than their peers who live at home, the NCBI states. The National Center on Elder Abuse notes that nearly 10 percent of people living in nursing homes report abuse. Further, it is estimated that one in four nursing home facilities are in such poor condition that the health of the resident is threatened.
Spotting the behavior
It is commonly held that elder abuse often goes unreported. This occurs either because loved ones do not recognize the signs or the victim is too afraid to report the behavior. The National Center on Elder Abuse reports that in addition to physical harm, there are other elements of inappropriate treatment that can take place. For example, a staff member or fellow resident could cause emotional distress through making threats or humiliating someone.
Sexual abuse is also a common problem, especially between residents. The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care notes that in some cases, the abuse is unintentional, as dementia has been linked to the behavior.
Advocates of the cameras in nursing homes state that the devices would go a long way in supporting victims of abuse because they would help to circumvent part the lack of reporting. Physical altercations, neglect and verbal assault could all be captured on tape.
What family members can do
Until the legislation passes and residents can install cameras, family members can do their part to identify if a loved one is suffering from elder abuse. Physical signs are often the most obvious, as the Administration on Aging reports that unexplained bruises, fractures and burns may indicate a problem. Neglect can also result in a resident who appears malnourished.
There are also emotional factors that are symptomatic of abuse. For example, a resident who becomes withdrawn from normal activity or experiences mood changes could be a victim of abuse. In some situations, a victim of abuse will start having panic attacks. Family members should pay strict attention to any uncharacteristic changes in the resident’s behavior.
Sexual abuse can be detected when a resident develops a sexually transmitted disease or an injury to the pelvic area. Additionally, torn, bloody or stained undergarments could be evidence of nonconsensual sexual activity.
Whenever someone suspects that a nursing home resident is encountering abuse, the situation should be reported. The National Center on Elder Abuse reports that when danger is imminent, the victim or his or her loved ones should immediately call 911. In other situations, the Illinois Department on Aging’s Adult Protective Services division should be contacted.
Once alerted, the authorities will conduct an investigation and take the appropriate action. That could mean relocating the resident either on a temporary or permanent basis and pressing criminal charges against the abusive party.
Cameras in nursing homes could be a valuable part of proving abuse and holding responsible parties accountable. Anyone who has concerns about matters such as this should contact a nursing home abuse attorney in McHenry.