New Legislation to Prevent Nursing Home Abuse
The Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act went into effect on Aug. 28, 2020. The law allows nursing home residents or their legal representatives to install cameras in patients’ rooms.
David Terry, an attorney who practices personal injury law in St. Louis, said the law is long overdue.
“The law gives people an opportunity to keep closer tabs on their family members who are in a nursing home. Particularly in this time period of COVID, when family members have gone months without being able to see their loved ones.”
When the newly enacted bill went up for a vote, some lawmakers expressed concern that installing video cameras in patients’ rooms would violate their privacy. Therefore, the law requires that the patient, as well as others who may be in the room, consent to being recorded. Nursing home staff must be informed that they are being filmed as well.
The Eudalays’ Story
The battle began in 2010, when Missouri resident Martha Eudalay found her husband, Tom, slumped over in a wheelchair at his nursing home, unresponsive. He had been left in a room with no air conditioning in the middle of July, and he was covered in urine and fecal matter.
Tom was hospitalized with a high fever and died a short time later. After her husband’s death, Eudalay began advocating for more electronic monitoring at nursing homes.
Thanks to the intrepid work of nursing home advocates, patients in long-term care facilities in Missouri can now be monitored via video in order to discourage abuse.
Elder Abuse Statistics
These laws are much-needed, as disturbing statistics about nursing home abuse and elder abuse reveal these are widespread problems. According to the Nonprofit group Nursing Home Abuse Justice, “As many as 5,000,000 elders are abused each year. It is thought that 1 in 10 elders over the age of 60 have been abused. One study reported that as many as 24.3% of residents experienced at least one instance of physical abuse while in a nursing home…Another study estimates only 1 in 14 incidents of elder abuse are formally reported.”
“Every year, families across the United States make the difficult decision to place their elderly loved ones in nursing homes and extended care facilities. Seniors make the move into long-term care facilities due to deteriorating health and the need for assistance, care and support,” Nursing Home Abuse Justice reports. “Sons, daughters and grandchildren—and seniors themselves—generally assume that high standards of attention, care and treatment will be met with professionalism and compassion. Unfortunately, many nursing homes and care facilities fail to provide the minimum standard of care assumed by residents and their relatives. Instead, abuse of many varieties is perpetrated against elderly residents of nursing homes. In many cases, it puts the individual’s life at risk. Abuse can result in trauma, medical emergencies and even death.”
Cameras in Nursing Homes- Good or Bad?
As parents and grandparents get older and require more attention and care, one solution for many people is to enlist the help of a nursing home or assisted living facility. However, due to the influx of news stories and negative reports, it seems that some nursing homes are no longer safe- especially when no one’s there to watch.
One of the main issues in nursing homes is the inability of residents to speak up for themselves due to their age, disability, or fears. Reported by the National Center on Elder Abuse, one study showed that 44% of nursing home residents said they had been abused, while a staggering 95% of residents say they had been neglected or had observed neglect around them. Many of these instances remain unreported and unresolved, keeping friends and family members in the dark about the abuse and neglect happening right in front of them.
So… what’s the solution?
All the scary stories and disturbing reports about nursing homes may beg the question… “Should cameras be allowed in nursing homes?”
Laws Regarding Cameras in Nursing Homes
As it stands today, only seven states have specific rules governing the legality of surveillance in nursing homes. All 43 remaining states are left in a grey area, leading to an influx of tension, confusion, and lawsuits.
In states such as Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Washington, both the resident and the roommate (if applicable) must consent to the installation of a camera. In other states, there are no set laws and the resident or family is able to do what they like. Situations can become sticky, however, when the resident is unable to make their own decisions. In these cases, the choice is oftentimes left up to the family representative, which means that these representatives risk making decisions in which the resident would not have agreed to on their own.
Although cameras may be a good option for some residents and their families, it may not always be the best solution.
Some issues with surveillance devices include the determination of consent as listed above, whether the device could record audio instead of just video, at what point the camera needs to be turned off (dressing/undressing, private medical talks with doctors and nurses, etc.), and more.
Ohio Nursing Homes
As of 2019, Ohio does not have a law dealing with the use of surveillance devices in nursing homes. Precaution should be used by residents and family members before placing a device in a nursing home due to the risk of breaking privacy and wiretapping laws in some situations.
It’s always best for families and friends to stay involved in playing an active role in the resident’s care. Diligent observation and monitoring could help identify signs of nursing home abuse or neglect
If you have any questions about whether or not placing a camera in a nursing home is legal, contact an experienced nursing home neglect and abuse attorney first.
Esther’s Law Allows Surveillance Cameras in Nursing Home Rooms
For the last 30 months of her life, Esther Piskor was abused, neglected, and mistreated in a nursing home ran by MetroHealth Medical Center.
Although Esther passed away in May 2018, her son, Steve Piskor, wants her legacy to live on forever- and is working with Ohio lawmakers to make that happen.
After witnessing some noticeable changes in his mother like unexplained bruises and quiet moods, Steve decided to place a hidden camera in his mother’s room at her nursing home facility.
The footage he found just a few days later was shocking, to say the least.
In one video, posted on Steve’s YouTube channel, one of Esther’s aids grabs her from her wheelchair and physically throws her onto the bed, causing her legs to hit the wall. In another clip, you can see the same aid yelling in Esther’s face, throwing her in a wheelchair, and hitting her in the face.
Virgen Caraballo, the aid shown in multiple videos, was later sentenced to 10 and a half years in prison for the mistreatment and neglect of her patients.
Before Steve even considered installing a hidden camera in his mother’s nursing home room, he tried to bring up concerns of abuse and neglect to facility management more than once.
Steve claims his multiple attempts to talk to someone about his worries were completely ignored. The camera placed in Esther’s room was Steve’s last resort- he HAD to find out what was happening when no one was looking. After finding several disturbing instances of abuse and neglect, Steve knew this had to be part of a larger, wide-spread problem.
Enter: Esther’s Law.
This new proposed bill by Ohio lawmakers would attempt to protect the elderly community in Ohio from similar forms of mistreatment. Esther’s Law would allow family members to monitor their loved ones using video cameras placed in individual rooms.
State Representative Juanita Brent serves Ohio District 12 and is one of multiple state representatives co-sponsoring this bill. She believes the additional surveillance measures are “crucial” and necessary to protect our elders from any further abuse or neglect.
There has, however, been pushback from the public and other officials about the idea of surveillance in nursing homes. However, backers of the bill believe that if caregivers and aids are performing their job regularly and legally, they have nothing to worry about.
Currently, there are 11 states throughout the U.S. that allow cameras inside nursing homes:
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
According to lawmakers, Esther’s law is modeled closely after the surveillance laws in Illinois, requiring:
- No hidden cameras
- Signs on the door notifying of surveillance
- Consent allowing cameras to be shut off during certain times (bathing, doctor’s exams, etc.)
Esther’s Law went into effect in Ohio in March of 2022.
Video of Man Beating a Nursing Home Patient Sheds Light on Nursing Home Abuse
The shocking video dominated national news headlines: a 20-year-old man repeatedly punching a 75-year-old nursing home resident confined to his bed. The facility, Westwood Nursing Center in Detroit, Michigan, took the older man to the hospital, claiming he had fallen from his bed. It was only after the perpetrator posted the video to social media that the public learned something much more sinister was going on. The 20-year-old man was arrested, and Adult Protective Services and Michigan state inspectors were both notified. They are investigating the incident, although Westwood remains on lockdown due to the threat of COVID-19.
To make matters worse, investigative journalists did some digging and found that Westwood Nursing Center has a long history of complaints regarding abuse and neglect. According to Medicare, which provides a tool for the public to compare nursing homes, Westwood has a 2-star rating (out of 5) for staffing issues and another 2-star rating for quality measures. Michigan investigators found that the nursing home did not provide proper wound care for residents, mismanaged residents’ prescription medications, and often allowed residents to live in squalid conditions—such as leaving vomit on the curtains and floor of a room for a full week without cleaning it up.
These stories are horrifying, especially for people who have placed a loved one in a nursing home. So how can you ensure that your elderly relative won’t end up at a facility known for substandard care?
First, use Medicare.gov’s Nursing Home Compare tool, available for free on its website. The tool allows you to compare up to three different nursing homes at a time and view the facility’s ratings in areas including health inspections, staffing, and quality measures. Medicare also places a red hand icon next to the names of facilities that have been charged with abuse and neglect, making it easier to rule out these facilities altogether.
However, one of the most important things you can do for your loved one is learn to recognize the signs of abuse and neglect in a nursing home. One of the biggest red flags of abuse is pressure sores and bed sores, which is a telltale sign the nursing home staff is not diligent about repositioning patients frequently to avoid these injuries. Frequent falls—with or without broken bones—is another sign of neglect, as is significant weight loss. Every nursing home should have a registered nutritionist on staff to make sure patients are well-nourished and not losing too much weight.
If you have done these things and still suspect your loved one is suffering from abuse and neglect in a nursing home, call the attorneys at Tittle & Perlmuter. Our attorneys care about seeking justice for victims of nursing home abuse—whether that abuse is physical, emotional, or sexual. Nursing facilities are home to some of our most vulnerable citizens, and any facility that fails to protect them should be held accountable for their negligence. Tittle & Perlmuter can help you find justice for your loved one.
Take Action Against Nursing Home Abuse with Tittle & Perlmuter
While nursing home abuse is widespread, that doesn’t mean it should be tolerated. If your family member has been abused in a nursing home, give the attorneys at Tittle & Perlmuter a call. Our experienced and compassionate attorneys can guide you through the legal process in order to seek justice for your loved one.