Esther’s Law requires nursing homes to allow resident cameras
When Steve Piskor installed a hidden camera in his mother’s Cleveland nursing home 10 years ago, he obtained proof of what he suspected: his 78-year-old mother, who lived with Alzheimer’s disease, was mistreated by staff.
“In fact, nothing prevented me from putting [a camera] and there was no law that allowed you to do that, so I did that and said whatever happened, would happen,” he said.
Finally, two caregivers pleaded guilty to abuse in 2011. At the same time, Piskor launched its campaign to raise awareness of abuse in retirement homes, founding Advocates for abuse in nursing homes for the elderlyand set his sights on the state legislature, hoping to make it easier for others close to him to monitor potential abuse.
Now, more than a decade later, his goal is being achieved, with a new state law – Esther’s Law – which comes into effect on March 23. It allows residents and families to place cameras in nursing home rooms. Esther Piskor died in 2018 at the age of 85.
Ohio joins a handful of other states, including Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington, that allow cameras in nursing homes.
“The pandemic really woke everyone up, you know, ‘Hey, we’re having issues in nursing homes and with our seniors,'” Piskor said.
“I would have continued for another 10 years if I had to,” he added.
What does the law of Esther allow?
The law requires long-term care facilities to allow residents or their guardians or attorneys to install a monitoring device – whether a video camera or an audio recorder or both – in a patient’s room.
Facilities may require forms to be completed to use a camera, and consent is required for residents who live with other residents. In cases where a roommate does not consent, the law states that the facility must make reasonable accommodations, such as moving the resident to another room with someone who consents, or placing conditions on what is recorded, that this either limiting the sound or only having the camera on the resident.
By law, facilities may require signage indicating that registration is in place. They cannot discriminate against residents who wish to install a camera.
The law does not apply to assisted living facilities, which do not fall under the state’s definition of long-term care facilities, because they are not skilled nursing facilities, but individual facilities. may have their own policies around the recording.
“A good way to protect the elderly.”
Patty Phillips, a nursing assistant who works in several retirement homes in Massillon through an agency, said she thought the law was a win-win.
“I’ve worked with a few people who I don’t think have anything to do in this industry with older people,” she said. “I feel like cameras and everything would be a good way to protect older people from these people.”
As a nurse’s aide, she said she was confident in the care she provided and did not mind being observed. In fact, she said that as someone who works with residents in memory care, cameras are also a good way to protect nursing home workers.
Still, privacy and dignity are concerns. Phillips said residents are often in vulnerable positions during the care process, and while staff members do what they can to protect individual dignity, she understands why a resident may not want a camera on them. .
Susan Wallace, director of policy at Leading Age Ohio, a trade association for nonprofit nursing homes, said her organization encourages all of its member facilities to implement a camera usage form so that all Privacy issues can be resolved prior to installation.
“We hope this is a request that you make and it is a process and that you have a discussion with the establishment, we hope that we can really make sure that we understand the objectives, the reasons of monitoring so that we are able to be proactive and preserve this [caregiving] relationship to the best of our abilities,” Wallace said.
Her organization has been involved with Esther’s Law throughout the legislative process, and Wallace said he feels the final version of the law ultimately protects residents’ rights. Leading Age has produced its own toolkit for Member Organizations, including a sample form, to help with implementation.
Peter Van Runkle, executive director of the Ohio Health Care Association, said his organization has also created a toolkit for nursing homes, and in particular, they encourage nursing homes to place signage in the residents’ rooms where a camera is used to ensure that no one inadvertently has their privacy violated.
“It’s a delicate balance the legislature has struck between the family’s desire to know what’s going on and a resident’s right to privacy,” Van Runkle said.
Mixed Feelings About Esther’s Law
Paula Mueller, the founder of Cleveland-based seniors advocatesis cautiously optimistic about the law of Esther.
She worries about the ambiguity of the law: Camera use forms are not mandatory, but rather at the discretion of the institution, and Mueller fears that without standardization, or where no form is used at all, families could end up accidentally violating privacy rights.
“Yes [nursing homes] embrace the cameras now, I think they would have more control over it,” Mueller said. “But if they don’t, with technology moving so quickly, people are just going to do things, and be that the protections will not be there. “
Mueller’s organization plans to do its best to advise residents and their loved ones on the use of cameras. She said that as funds permitted, she would also like to help sponsor cameras for those who want them and may not be able to afford them.
Residents or guardians are responsible for paying for their own monitoring devices under the law. Sam McCoy, senior vice president of elders’ rights for Direction Home Akron Canton, said the facilities are only responsible for providing electricity and that camera costs he says will limit the number of people who choose to d exercise their new right.
The price of indoor cameras can vary depending on the features you want: cameras from Wyze and Amazon’s Blink camera start at $35, while devices from Ring or Google Nest are usually more expensive, up to $60. $ or $100.
McCoy advises residents or guardians interested in setting up an electronic device to consider whether they want it to be able to stream live video or just record and store information on the device.
Piskor said residents should also consider setting up their own individual Wi-Fi hotspots for streaming cameras, so they aren’t dependent on a nursing home internet connection.
A dozen Stark-area nursing homes did not respond to requests for comment on this story. Any resident or guardian who encounters resistance to the law should contact an Ohio Long-Term Care Ombudsman at 800-282-1206.
Sam Zern can be reached at [email protected] or 330-580-8322. You can also find her on Twitter at @sam_zern.