According to AARP Illinois State Director Bob Gallo, public health officials in Illinois receive about 19,000 complaints each year from residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities. Throughout the past year, the state legislature and Governor Bruce Rauner officially took a stand against nursing home negligence and abuse by passing a measure designed to protect some of Illinois’ most at-risk residents.
Beginning in 2016, Illinois will become one of just five states that explicitly allow private surveillance devices, such as cameras and audio recorders, in the rooms of nursing home residents. Facilities are not required to provide the devices or supporting services, like internet access, but they may not prevent the installation or subsequent monitoring if proper procedures are followed by the resident and his or her family.
Notification and Consent Requirements
To protect the privacy of all residents, any installed surveillance device must have the consent of all of the room’s residents or their guardians. Any and all affected residents or guardians may withdraw their consent at any time and for any reason. In addition, facility and its staff must be notified—consent is not needed—regarding the existence of the device(s). Finally, there must be clear, posted notification posted outside of the resident’s room stating that the room is being electronically monitored.
All costs associated with the installation of the device are the responsibility of the resident and his or her family. The camera or recording device itself may transmit or record audio and/or video only. Devices that record still photographic images only are not covered by the provisions of the new law. Additionally, the device must be installed in the open and in a fixed position. Hidden cameras are prohibited.
Potential Consequences for Interfering
Any footage or recording made by the monitoring devices must be provided at the request of any party to an investigation regarding a civil or criminal case, or alleged administrative misconduct. However, any attempt to prohibit, interfere with, or tamper with the permitted surveillance by the facility or a staff member may be considered a criminal offense. On its own, such an act is a misdemeanor, but may rise to a felony level if the interference was intended to conceal felonious activity.
State officials are confident that the new law will produce the desired effect, as behavior tends to improve when people know they are being monitored. Similarly, many nursing homes seem to be welcoming the change as well, in the hopes of clarifying many of the misunderstandings that often lead to complaints of negligence or abuse.
If you are involved with a dispute with a nursing home over the care or treatment of a loved one, contact a skilled Illinois elder law attorney. For more than 25 years, Attorney Mark Kezy has been working to protect the rights of seniors throughout the greater Chicago area. Call 708-518-8200 to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation today.