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ESA Continues Focus on Video Monitoring Legislation at State, National Levels

Posted By Bob Ogle, Friday, December 6, 2013

ESA is consistently urged by families and legal guardians of the elderly to advocate the voluntary use of video surveillance to ensure safety at elder-care facilities, such as nursing homes and assisted-living providers. The case for video was made even stronger by a recent article in The New York Times.

John Chwat, ESA’s director of government relations, said the article is a timely reminder that the issue is becoming more important than ever – especially since more than 70 million people will be 65 or older by 2030. Residents of elder-care facilities would benefit from enhanced security through the use of video in common areas, he said, as well as in the rooms of residents.

Chwat says ESA is taking a two-pronged approach to legislation.

"We’re working at the state level to encourage bills that will allow the voluntary use of video monitoring to protect the elderly,” he said. "We’re also working at the federal level with the Senate Select Committee on Aging to urge reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, with amendments that would protect residents of elder care facilities.”

The amendment includes a study of existing laws, as well as a pilot project by the Department of Health and Human Services, with a report due to Congress in 2015; a grant formula pilot project for states with large populations of nursing home residents regarding the feasibility of mandating surveillance on a voluntary basis; and public Congressional hearings on the issue of elder-care abuse.

Chwat says the timing is particularly favorable among states. In 2013, Oklahoma and Virginia became the latest states (joining Texas and New Mexico) to explicitly permit residents in long-term care facilities to maintain surveillance cameras in their rooms. A number of other states – including New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Rhode Island and New Hampshire – are considering similar bills. ESA is working aggressively with its Chartered Chapters to advance those bills.

"I haven’t seen as many state bills in one period as there have been in 2012 and 2013,” Chwat said. "This seems to be an issue that’s bubbling up from the state level, and if states are starting to pass legislation like this, that means they’re starting to recognize that it’s something that needs to be addressed.”

The demands on the elder-care system will grow in line with the aging population. The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that more than 40 percent of people over the age of 65 will enter a nursing home before they die.

It’s difficult to put precise numbers on the amount of abuse in elder-care facilities, since a large number of incidents are never discovered or never reported. However, in a 2008 survey of 2,000 nursing home residents, 44 percent said they had been abused, while 95 percent said they had either been neglected or had seen another resident neglected.

The anecdotal evidence, however, is chilling. The Times article, "Watchful Eye in Nursing Homes,” details the use of video cameras set up discreetly and privately by relatives to monitor treatment of their loved ones. It cites instances of physical abuse, taunting, neglect and other incidents.

It also presents both sides of the debate over video monitoring. While relatives and advocacy groups say it’s an important tool in protecting loved ones and proving abuse to authorities who sometimes dismiss complaints, others feel it raises legal and ethical questions, as well as challenging the professionalism of staff members.

Tags:  elder care  federal legislation  state legislation  video 

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