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Video Surveillance of Nursing Home Residents: A Necessary Protection from Negligence?

The Ohio Senate passed “Esther’s Law” in May of 2021, as part of an effort to protect nursing home residents from abuse and negligence. The law allows families to place surveillance cameras in their loved one’s nursing home room, provided they have the approval of any roommates. Hopefully, the presence of cameras will serve as more of a deterrent against abuse than existing nursing home policies.

Esther Piskor: Elder Abuse Caught on Tape

The law takes its name from Esther Piskor, an Ohio woman whose son became suspicious after noticing bruises on his 90-year-old mother. Family members also noted she had withdrawn socially – one of the many signs of elder abuse. Out of concern, the family placed a video recording device in her room.

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Ohio Senator Nickie Antonio co-sponsored Esther’s Law. He addressed the Senate floor, stating, “Her family…captured horrific footage of [Piskor] being assaulted by healthcare professionals.” On more than one occasion, staff had thrown Piskor into her wheelchair, and another video showed a staff member hitting her in the face. Unfortunately, this is not unique to Esther. In fact, in 2018, Ohio alone received more than 19,000 reports of elder abuse.

Esther’s son, Steve Piskor, says this resource should have been available during the pandemic when so many families were not allowed to visit nursing homes to check on their loved ones. Unfortunately, it’s often up to the family to make sure their senior relative receives adequate care.

Privacy Concerns Block Similar Laws in Other States

In September 2020, the Georgia legislature blocked a similar law that would have allowed for cameras in nursing home residences. Representative Demetrius Douglas authored the bill and cited incidences of elder neglect during Covid lockdowns as the inspiration.

The CEO of the Georgia Health Care Association, a representative for the nursing care industry, said that he had concerns over privacy violations: “The use of such cameras in a healthcare setting significantly increases the risk of violating HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).” The federal HIPAA privacy rule sets limits around who can access patient information.

Douglas’s Georgia bill made provisions for privacy that were similar to those outlined in the Ohio bill: Any roommates would have to sign a consent form before staff installed the camera and the family would have to inform the nursing home facility. The resident would also have to post a sign on the door alerting visitors to the camera’s presence. And for some, privacy is not the primary concern. Steve Piskor told ABC, “If I could’ve given up my mother’s privacy rights for her not to get abused, I would’ve done it in a heartbeat.

I Want Video Surveillance in My Elderly Relatives’ Room. What’s Next? 

If you want to place a surveillance camera in your elderly relatives’ nursing home residence, double-check to see if it’s permissible in your state. Many states, like New York, do not have laws that prohibit nursing home cameras, but they also do not have laws that require nursing homes to comply with their clients’ wishes to have surveillance cameras installed.

Your state may require that your family pay for the installation and removal of cameras.

As of May 2021, the following states also allow cameras inside nursing homes:

  1. Louisiana
  2. Maryland
  3. Minnesota
  4. Missouri
  5. New Jersey
  6. New Mexico
  7. North Dakota
  8. Oklahoma
  9. South Dakota
  10. Texas
  11. Utah
  12. Virginia
  13. Washington

What If I Have Concerns About Elder Abuse?

If you have concerns that your relative might be suffering from some form of elder abuse in their nursing home, you don’t have to wait to capture evidence on video. Contact a nursing home abuse attorney for a free case evaluation. Call (877) 238-4175 or email info@fkesq.com for a free case consultation.