Illinois could soon allow nursing home residents and their families to install video cameras and audio recorders in their rooms to help protect against abuse and neglect.
Backed by Attorney General Lisa Madigan, the legislation would require resident and roommate consent and make nursing home residents or their families responsible for the purchase and maintenance of devices. A physician would need to determine whether a resident is capable of consent.
“Placing a loved one in a nursing facility is a difficult decision that many families will face,” Madigan said in a statement sent to Life Matters Media. “This measure provides an extra layer of security for nursing home residents, while giving their families peace of mind knowing that their loved ones are receiving safe, quality care.”
The initiative stems from complaints Madigan said she received from nursing home residents and families concerned for their care and security. The Illinois House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed her proposal April 16 and it was introduced in the Senate May 19.
Both the Illinois Nursing Home Administrators Association and Illinois Council on Long Term Care declined to comment.
Dr. June McKoy, associate professor of geriatrics and internal medicine at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said the law would unfairly burden caregivers and shame seriously ill patients.
“I am very concerned about privacy and other issues raised by having cameras in nursing homes. It’s one thing to have cameras in your own home, if you got a babysitter for your child or some caregiver, but a nursing home is a whole different ball game,” McKoy said. “A lot of nursing homes don’t have private rooms, and proponents claim they can have a ‘granny cam’ targeted at those who give consent, but if I’m in a room with someone else, I wouldn’t want a camera. Period.”
McCoy, who said she has never heard of a patient asking for a camera, said those suffering from dementia or immobility could be recorded during baths or changes.
“You got caregivers going in and cleaning them, bathing them, doing intimate things to them, and that will all play out on camera, which will affect how caregivers and nursing assistants provide care,” she added. “They do a lot of extra work for patients that should not be on camera.”
Illinois has more than 1,100 nursing home facilities with nearly 76,000 residents. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2030, 22 percent of Illinois’ population will be 60 and older. In 2013, the Illinois Department of Public Health found 106 allegations of abuse, neglect or misappropriation of property against residents by facility staff to be valid.
If enacted, Illinois would become the fifth state (New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Washington) to explicitly allow electronic monitoring devices to be installed. The recordings could be used in court for allegations of abuse.
The law would also require the Department of Public Health to establish a program to distribute up to $50,000 in funds, disbursed by lottery, each year to residents unable to pay for their own devices.