New Illinois Law Permits Video Camera Surveillance in Nursing Homes by Family Members
Written by Jeff Meyer on September 2, 2015
A new Illinois law expected to be enacted in January seeks to decrease dramatically the number of nursing home abuse cases plaguing the state. Representative Greg Harris of the Illinois state legislature proposed and successfully sought passage of a bill permitting family members to place surveillance cameras in the rooms of their loved ones residing at nursing homes. Harris hopes that the existence of surveillance, or even the perception that video surveillance is ongoing, will result in a dramatic, if not total drop in abuse cases that now occur in Illinois nursing homes. In light over one hundred and fifty criminal cases of elderly abuse or neglect charged in the state of Illinois in the past year alone, the plan garnered sufficient legislative support that the Governor has agreed to accept the measure as law beginning next January.
Admittedly, Harris notes there are privacy concerns addressed in the cases of surveillance, with residents being required to obtain consent in cases of nursing home roommates, or if not possible, facilities would be forced to make other housing arrangements for patients. Moreover, staff and guests of facilities with patients taking advantage of the new video surveillance laws will be notified in writing prior to entering a given room or area under surveillance in order to comply with privacy laws in the state. At this juncture, any surveillance equipment deployed by nursing home patients or their loved ones in Illinois nursing homes must be funded exclusively privately, however, Harris noted his addendum to the bill which seeks to arrange hardship financing for families and patients in a limited number of cases.
Ultimately, the bill sought to legalize otherwise potentially illegal safety and precautionary measures taken by families across the country in light of legitimate concerns or suspicions of elder abuse. Unfortunately, the efficacy of these efforts is not in doubt, although their legality at times may be called in question, as a large number of high profile nursing home abuse cases across the country stem from videotaped acts of abuse caught on hidden video camera.
According to Illinois elder abuse officials, the warning signs of abuse are often visible to family members and loved ones, however, obtaining credible, definitive evidence proved difficult, as many elderly patients were reticent to elaborate on injuries or changes in personality in light of abuse. Specifically, these patients fear retribution from staff members, as well as feared being perceived as a burden to family members in general. With the new surveillance laws in place, a passive protection system is now a viable option for both patients and their family members that actively seeks to protect the legal rights of the elderly in the state of Illinois.