Highlight on Illinois: Nursing homes may want to prep for on camera exposure

Illinois families with loved ones in skilled nursing facilities will soon have the ability to monitor the care of their loved ones via video or audio recording devices, and nursing homes will want to be sure that what they see is proper care. Legislation was signed into law in late August allowing the use of resident-installed surveillance systems in nursing homes, which supporters say will help to prevent abuse and neglect of nursing home residents. While the law is not intended to cost nursing homes any money, compliance with the law will ensure the elimination of added expense.

Specific provisions. The Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act, effective January 1, 2016, allows nursing home residents to install audio and video surveillance equipment in their rooms. To take advantage of this new law, residents and their roommates must consent to having the recording devices installed. Legal guardians and family members may give the consent for the residents if the residents themselves are deemed incapable of doing so by a physician. Consent for the devices may be withdrawn at any time.

Skilled nursing facilities will not be required to pay for the equipment, as residents will be required to install and run the surveillance equipment at their own expense. It must be positioned in a “conspicuously visible location” within the facility. Any audio visual materials recorded at the nursing home via the surveillance system will be admissible into evidence in administrative, civil, and criminal proceedings. Nursing homes will also be alerted to employees who may be involved in abusive or unacceptable behavior and by using the newly accessible information, would be able to take disciplinary measures.

Requirements. Nursing home residents unable to afford the surveillance equipment may receive funding for its purchase. The Illinois law requires the Illinois Department of Health to establish a $50,000 fund for the purchasing and installing of equipment, which will be dispersed annually via lottery, to residents wishing to have access to the equipment, but whom cannot financially afford it.

Penalties. Nursing homes will want to be sure they do not interfere with the use of the equipment. The law establishes legal penalties for hindering the installation of, or obstructing or destroying electronic monitoring equipment, and contains provisions that include notifying visitors of electronic monitoring and limiting facilities’ access to the recordings. It will be considered a business offense for a nursing home to discriminate or retaliate against a resident or prospective resident for consenting to the electronic monitoring. Nursing homes could be guilty of a petty offense if it interferes with or prevents the installation of an electronic monitoring device by a resident who has provided the facility with the required consent.

History. According to the Illinois Attorney General’s office (AG), the legislation stemmed from complaints received from nursing home residents and families concerned about their relatives’ care. The AG’s office noted that the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) receives more than 21,000 calls annually and responds to approximately 5,000 complaints, the majority of which involve long-term care facilities. The AG further noted that, in 2013, the IDPH found 106 allegations of abuse, neglect, or misappropriation of property against residents by facility staff to be valid.

“Deciding to place a loved one into a nursing facility is extremely difficult, and as Baby Boomers age, more families will be faced with that decision,” said Illinois Attorney General, Lisa Madigan. “This law makes Illinois one of the first states in the nation to give families peace of mind by allowing them to monitor their loved one’s care when they cannot be present.” Illinois will be the fifth state to enact this type of legislation, as other states with similar laws include: New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Washington.