To the Editor:
At the beginning of 2016, the Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act became law in Illinois.
This act affects more than 100,000 residents living in nursing homes by providing video monitoring in patients’ rooms. This important legislation tackles the problem of patient physical and mental abuse by providing evidence of abuse that patients and other employees who were aware were hesitant to report out of fear of retaliation.
Over the years, patients have been subjected to substandard care, theft and malnutrition as investigators found by an average of 5,000 complaints from patients and their family members annually. Patients were having their medications stolen and being neglected.
Physical abuse of aged nursing home residents by younger, able-bodied staffers has been exposed by news reports many times.
Patients having dementia and Alzheimer’s disease were among the most targeted as well as those having few visitors because staff inclined to perpetrate malicious behaviors are less likely to be discovered when abusing residents whose mental state is questionable. A bruise caused by staff may be reported as a fall.
The annual cost to the government is $50,000 to provide for installation of these systems to nursing homes selected yearly by lottery. However, monitoring systems are not mandatory. Residents or their guardian must sign a consent form if they are uncomfortable because of privacy issues, although the monitoring is available to them to view.
But family members concerned about the care their loved ones receive will applaud this bill, which provides preventive measures to keep their relative safe, as well as administrators of these facilities because wrongdoers will risk having their license revoked and being held criminally liable for elder abuse.
With monitoring systems in place, administrators can more quickly respond to incidents occurring between residents as well. Another benefit for administrators is that employees who have been wrongly accused by patients experiencing mental problems can be cleared of wrongdoing. It’s a win-win for all stakeholders: The public can gain more confidence admitting their loved one into these facilities, many of which have earned a bad name in the public eye. Administrators of nursing homes are less likely to be sued for negligence perpetrated by their staff, and patients – especially those battling Alzheimer’s, which affects 5 million U.S. seniors – can receive better quality care at this time of life when they have become totally dependent.