After months of planning and preparation, Illinois lawmakers recently introduced a proposal designed to help families protect their elderly loved ones from nursing home abuse and neglect. The measure, if passed, would allow nursing home rooms to be equipped with surveillance cameras.

The controversial legislation, which was introduced on February 13, 2015, would allow cameras to be placed in nursing home residents' rooms with the following restrictions:

  • The cameras must be visible.
  • Roommates and nursing home staff must be notified of the cameras in advance.
  • Residents must pay for the cameras and related expenses.

Supporters of the proposal say the measure would help protect residents from abuse and neglect, which has been an issue of growing concern in recent years. According to a report issued in 2014 by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General's office, 85 percent of all nursing homes nationwide received at least one allegation of abuse or neglect in 2012.

According to HHS, it received approximately 60,000 allegations of abuse or neglect of nursing home residents by facility staff members. This is the equivalent of more than 160 complaints per day on average. Unfortunately, however, there may be many more that are never reported.

Cameras offer safety and peace of mind but may raise privacy concerns

By allowing cameras to be placed in nursing home residents' rooms, advocates say the proposed Illinois law could provide peace of mind to residents' families and loved ones, and would help them to learn the truth about what happened if a loved one suffers an unexplained injury or illness at a nursing home. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) says he also hopes the measure may help improve the state's nursing home ranking, ABC News reported. Currently, Illinois ranks near the bottom nationally.

At least 12 states have considered similar legislation over the past 15 years, according to a September 2014 Pew report. To date, however, only a few of those states have enacted laws or regulations that allow nursing home residents to monitor their rooms with security cameras, including New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma and Washington. Similar guidelines in Maryland allow cameras to be installed at the discretion of the facility.

According to the Pew report, some members of the nursing home industry have reservations about the proposal due to privacy concerns. However, according to Greg Crist, American Health Care Association's vice president of public affairs, the industry is not opposed to laws that allow cameras to be placed in residents' rooms so long as they are used in a way that promotes quality of care. Another potential concern raised by the organization is that turnover among nursing home staff may increase if cameras cause them to feel overly scrutinized.

Contact Konicek & Dillon, P.C. if a loved one is harmed in a Nursing Home

People with concerns about the safety and wellbeing of a loved one living in an Illinois nursing home are encouraged to contact the law firm of Konicek & Dillon, P.C., to find out about the legal options that are available when a family member is harmed by neglect or abuse at a long-term care facility.

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