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New Illinois Law Permits Camera Installation at Long-Term Care Nursing Homes

Illinois has approximately 1,200 long-term care nursing homes that serve more than 100,000 residents. Each year, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), responsible for licensing and regulating all Illinois nursing homes, fields around 19,000 complaints of abuse and neglect against residents of the state’s long-term care facilities. Common injuries to residents of nursing homes include falls, bedsores, malnutrition, and dehydration.  These injuries can occur by accident or at the hand of a caretaker who is acting negligently or maliciously.  Residents’ dependence on caretakers makes them especially vulnerable to being abused by those tasked with ensuring their well-being.  It is scary and infuriating to consider that someone in such a position may actually do harm rather than good but the unfortunate truth is that it happens all the time.  How then are you to feel secure leaving your loved one in a long-term care nursing home?

The Balance: Protecting Residents and Privacy Rights

4083382297_d403762752Illinois House Bill 2462 creating and authorizing the Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act seeks to give family members a peace of mind by allowing cameras to be installed in resident rooms at long-term care nursing homes.  Although installation of the cameras is not mandatory under the new legislation, it provides the option to install audio and visual monitoring equipment in residents’ rooms so that family members can check their loved one’s welfare and keep a record of the treatment they are receiving behind closed doors.   There are certain rules required by the legislation before the cameras can be installed, a majority of which are in place to avoid violating anyone’s right to privacy.

  • Written consent to have surveillance equipment installed must be completed by the resident himself or an appointed legal guardian.
  • If the resident has a roommate, permission must be obtained from that person before installing any surveillance equipment.
  • All cameras must be placed in a conspicuously visible location.
  • A sign must be posted at the long-term care nursing home’s main entrance that clearly provides notice that “the rooms of some residents may be monitored electronically by or on behalf of the residents.”

The Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act specifies that all equipment, installation, and any internet connection required is to be supplied and financed by the resident however, the facility is not authorized to charge residents who opt to install cameras an extra fee for the electricity consumed by their operation. Further, the Act prohibits long-term care nursing homes from barring admission to prospective residents just because they choose to have surveillance cameras installed and punishes anyone who knowingly hampers, obstructs, tampers with or destroys the electronic monitoring equipment.

The primary goal of this legislation is to deter abuse and neglect by employees in long-term care nursing homes.  Hopefully, the mere awareness that they are being monitored will encourage staff members to uphold their duty to provide a reasonable standard of care.   If it does not, recordings made by a resident’s surveillance equipment can be used in civil, criminal, and administrative proceedings to make a showing regarding a resident’s health and safety and the treatment they are receiving.

What to Do If You or a Loved One Is an Injured Victim

Christmas_Day_in_a_nursing_home_-_geograph.org.uk_-_1091150If you suspect that a resident of a long-term care nursing home is the victim of abuse or neglect and is in immediate life-threatening danger, call 9-1-1.  If no immediate danger exists, contact a personal injury attorney who can help you file an elder abuse report or complaint with the Illinois Department of Public Health.  Discovering that a loved one has been injured at the hand of someone entrusted to care for them can be a disturbing experience.  Contacting a personal injury attorney can help alleviate some of the stress by explaining the law surrounding nursing home injuries and counseling you and your family on what legal remedies may be available.  Generally, the statute of limitations for a long-term care nursing home abuse and neglect suit is two years from the date of injury unless the facility is operated by a local governmental entity, in which case the statute of limitations is only one year.  If you wait too long to file a suit for injuries wrongfully incurred while residing at a long-term care nursing facility, you will miss out on your chance to receive compensation.  If you become made aware that you or a family member was the victim of abuse or neglect contact a personal injury attorney as soon as possible.

The Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act was signed into law by Governor Rauner in August of this year and will go into effect beginning in 2016.

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Ronald F. Wittmeyer, Jr. practices plaintiffs' personal injury law at his office in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

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