‘Senior cam’ law could mean less nursing home abuse, neglect

If you are a Lake County resident with a loved one in a nursing home, you know that it can be tough. You count on the nursing home to provide the highest level of care possible. If you could, you’d probably be on site all the time to be sure that he or she was as safe and secure as could be. But that isn’t realistic.

That opens the door to the possibility that the patient could become a victim of caregiver neglect. Worse yet, conditions in a facility could be such that the patient could suffer outright physical or mental assault or abuse and it might go unnoticed.

There are already laws on the books meant to ensure that such things do not happen. And yet, the fact is that they do. As the Chicago Sun-Times recently observed, the state of Illinois ended up receiving a grade of “F” for nursing home care in 2014 from the group Families for Better Care. And the same group says the report for 2015 isn’t expected to be any better.

It is under the pall of that rating that the General Assembly enacted another law. It took effect the first of this year. What it does is allow residents or those who speak for them to install electronic recording equipment in the patient’s room. The expectation is that the elder monitoring will prevent, or at least reduce, instances of bad care or abuse.

Readers may be aware that a similar measure failed to pass muster with lawmakers in 2007. This new law differs from the previous effort in that it requires residents or their relatives to pay for the installation of monitors and signs have to indicate that the devices are present. Other provisions aim to address specific privacy concerns.

If a room has more than one resident, all the affected parties have to agree to allow the monitoring. But if a resident really wants the monitoring, the home has to find some way to accommodate the desire.

Whether this law will have a significant impact is hard to know at this point. A spokesman for Families for Better Care does offer that perhaps the monitoring will spark more legislative action aimed at addressing what he says is the real problem — insufficient staffing.