Protecting Our Elders Priority for State Lawmakers

Hidden Camera in Nursing HomeCleveland, OH- It appears as though the shocking stories of nursing home abuse and neglect are finally getting the attention of state lawmakers across the country who have begun to draft and pass legislation intended to protect the elderly.

The most recent state to propose added protections for nursing home residents is Ohio. A new bill in the state House of Representatives would give nursing home residents the right to place hidden cameras in their rooms in order to catch incidents of abuse or neglect.

In many instances, hidden cameras are the only way for families to prove their elderly or disabled loved ones are being subjected to abuse and neglect. Nursing home residents who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s are unable to remember or tell their families they are being harmed or ignored. Other patients often fear that if they report abuse of neglect they will be retaliated against.

The House Judiciary Committee began hear arguments about House Bill 298 Wednesday afternoon.

If passed the bill would add a provision to the Resident’s Bill of Rights of Ohio which would allow the practice. The legislation came after a Zanesville nursing home was closed after a hidden camera revealed a pattern of abuse and neglect.

State Rep. Mike Duffey, a Republican of Worthington who co-sponsored the bill, has personal experience with the nursing home neglect. He told the Plains Dealer that he believes his father was neglect at a long-term care facility. He explained that his father went into septic shock caused by dehydration. Rep. Duffey and his family suspected that staff withheld water from his father so he wouldn’t soil himself and they wouldn’t have to change his clothes.

The law has its critics, especially among industry leaders and advocacy groups who say that the cameras violate privacy rights. Covert filming is legal under Ohio law as long as one of the parties is aware that they are being taped.

Other states such as Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma have laws similar to H.B. 298. Florida and Massachusetts have pilot surveillance programs.

Ohio isn’t the only state trying to better protect the vulnerable residents of nursing homes; Connecticut has also enacted first-of –its- kind legislation.

Earlier this month, Connecticut Governor Dan Malloy signed the Nursing Home Residents Bill of Rights. The bill protects nursing home residents from retaliation on the behalf of staff and nursing home administrators.

The law was inspired by Mary Frost who was subjected to retaliation after she complained. Frost witnessed numerous incidents were her fellow nursing home residents were denied food and water because they were vocal about the way staff treated them.

Abuse and neglect in nursing homes is such a prevalent problem with nearly one in ten seniors admitting they had been neglected in a long-term care facility. Legislators in all states really need to look into ways they can protect our aging and defenseless population. Nursing home abuse attorneys provide some protection, but they can only intercede after the fact, seniors need protection before they can abused or ignored.