Illinois recently passed legislation to allow nursing home cameras for video and audio monitoring to ensure the safe and humane treatment of residents. Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner signed the legislation, which will become law in January 2016.
The law would allow families to place video cameras in loved ones’ rooms to monitor their treatment and care. The installation would require consent from residents and any roommates. It would also prohibit nursing homes from taking retaliatory measures against those using the devices.
Proponents of the law welcome the measure as a critical safeguard for patients. Families of residents often suspect that their loved one is being abused or mistreated, supporters say, and a recording device could confirm their suspicions or ease their minds. Also, because the device requires resident consent, it wouldn’t violate patient privacy rights.
Others disagree. They argue that recording devices could breach privacy rights in multi-occupant rooms and question whether a patient can give proper consent when a family member installs the camera.
Elder abuse is a difficult but important problem to address. Research estimates that one in 10 elders is abused and only one in 23 cases get reported. Every day, vulnerable adults are mistreated and denied the humane care they deserve. This problem is particularly difficult in nursing homes because caregivers are often left alone with patients, making it difficult for families to prove that patients have suffered abuse.
Six other states have similar laws. South Carolina would do well to consider a similar policy. The use of recording devices in nursing homes would encourage caregivers to give elders the compassionate care they deserve and offer families peace of mind. More importantly, when abuse does occur, a video camera would allow families to pursue justice for their loved ones and ensure that others are not mistreated in the same way. We allow cameras to record banking employees counting our money. Why not allow cameras to record health care professionals caring for our most vulnerable citizens?