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Installing Video Surveillance in Nursing Home Rooms

One of the hottest debates currently happening in elder law and nursing home care is whether video cameras should be allowed in nursing home rooms. Many residents of nursing homes and their children believe that installing surveillance will benefit everyone involved; however, many nursing home facilities are attempting to block the installation of video cameras in their communities.

Nursing Homes Banning Use

The most common reason that nursing home facilities give to the children of residents about why video surveillance is not allowed is that the video recording violates federal privacy laws under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). However, that is not the case as long as the video cameras and recordings are owned by the families. Still, that reason remains commonplace for many nursing home providers.

New Video Surveillance Legislation

Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has heard multiple complaints about the lack of accountability and ability to monitor residents in nursing homes. Her office has begun drafting legislation that would allow residents and their families to put cameras in the rooms of Illinois’ 1,200+ nursing homes. The families of the residents would own and install the cameras; the facilities would not have access to them.

Ms. Madigan hopes that the law could be passed and implemented as soon as 2016. In Illinois, video cameras are not illegal in nursing home rooms, but the facilities can ban them. To protect the privacy of the residents, the resident or their healthcare proxy will have to request the cameras, and any roommates would also have to consent to their installation. The law would also require some type of notice to let people know that they are being recorded.

Four states: Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Washington all already have laws on the books that explicitly allow video cameras in nursing home rooms. With the passage of the law in Illinois, the hope is that other states will soon follow suit with their own laws allowing video cameras in nursing home facilities.

Benefits of Video Cameras

Deterring elder abuse in nursing home facilities is the main benefit that video camera advocates are arguing for the passage of these camera laws. When possible abusers know that they are being watched, most will behave properly. And if the cameras do not deter the abuse, it can at the very least provide proof of the crimes that can be admissible in court.

Another benefit of video cameras in nursing home rooms is that family members of the resident can monitor for inactivity on the part of the staff. Family members can ensure that their loved one is being turned to prevent bed sores, is being properly fed, and can ensure that all of their needs are being met.

Video cameras can also be valuable when patients have dementia or are otherwise unable to report mistreatment at the hands of the nursing home staff. However, elder law advocates remind family members that a camera is not a complete substitute for being there, communicating with staff, and seeing things with your own eyes.

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