Would You Want A Camera In Your Room?

Recently the Chicago Tribune reported that the attorney general’s office is drafting language for a new bill allowing camera monitoring in nursing homes. The overarching goal is to deter abuse or neglect at nursing home facilities. This proposal hits close to home as many of us have a loved one at a nursing home. And unfortunately it is not uncommon for elderly to be physically abused by the very people entrusted to care for them. The article noted a shocking statistic that the Illinois Department of Public Health receives 19,000 calls per year alleging abuse or neglect and responds to about 5,000.

Under current Illinois law, nursing home residents are not allowed to have cameras installed in their rooms. The proposal would allow residents of nursing homes to install a camera with an audio recording device in their room and any recording could be used in court. The proposal would also require the resident’s consent and the family members to bear the financial cost of installing the equipment.

One issue with the proposal that was noted in the article is consent. Determining whether someone is legally competent to give consent requires an assessment of their mental capacity, and that could be a challenging task for some of the more senior residents at nursing homes. Moreover, privacy rights as it relates to HIPPA and visitors, staff and roommates is another concern. One possible solution would be to require each visitor/roommate to sign a consent form.

The strongest opposition to the use of surveillance cameras in nursing homes comes from the industry itself. Nursing home operators and staff fear that security cameras would make it much harder to retain good staff and attract new ones – in an industry with low pay and a high turnover rate.

This is not the State’s first crack at passing a bill allowing cameras to be installed in nursing home facilities. In 2007 State Senator, Terry Link, sponsored a similar bill but it failed. However, five states including Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Maryland and Washington now allow cameras to be installed in nursing homes, so it will be interesting to see how far the second proposal goes and the impact it has on the care of elderly.