HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – Visiting bans in nursing homes have sparked renewed interest in legislation that would allow families to place remote cameras in facilities to see how their loved ones are doing.
Before the pandemic, cameras were seen as a way to identify elder abuse and neglect. But now many hope they can bring comfort to visit bans imposed to counter the devastating tide of COVID-19 in nursing homes, leaving many families struggling to get information.
“That visit ban was really troubling to people. And I think it’s understandable that some facilities aren’t great at sharing information about what’s going on,” said Anna Doroghazi, AARP’s associate state director in Connecticut. She has heard stories of people calling a nursing home five times before someone finally answered the phone and families unable to get an update on a loved one’s condition.
“For me it is not a gotcha game with nursing home staff. I think people do their best especially now. They show up. They are doing well, ”said Doroghazi. “But for me, cameras are really about peace of mind for family members.”
About a dozen states already have laws or regulations that allow residents and their families to install video cameras, subject to certain rules.
Last month, Missouri lawmakers passed legislation allowing families to request cameras to contact loved ones in a nursing home. The state governor reviews the legislation.
Camera accounts have also received new life in other states, including Ohio and Connecticut.
Vicki Krafthefer said cameras may have helped alleviate frustration because they couldn’t see firsthand what happened to her 65-year-old sister, Christy Buzzard, at a long-term care facility in Ohio this spring.
Since March, Buzzard, who suffered brain damage as a toddler, has a childlike personality and is now partially paralyzed by stroke, has fallen seven times, was hospitalized for a serious head injury, and was isolated after testing positive for COVID-19.
Through phone calls and window visits, she also described being kicked and hair pulled, allegations the facility has denied.
“If I could get a camera in her room, I could look at it and see who comes in and who goes out. I could see who were the ones who were mean to her, ”Krafthefer said. “The cameras are so badly needed. I mean, if we had that, it would help the workers a lot. It would help the families. It would help the residents. There is so much good that a camera can do. ‘
Ohio House Representative Juanita Brent, a Cleveland suburban Democrat who filed a bill allowing cameras late last year, saying that since the pandemic hit many families have been unable to see their relatives for months and now want to install them.
“People now understand the urgency of why we should have this implemented,” she said. “You feel a little helpless.”
The cameras allow families to track or capture their loved ones in real time. In most cases, residents can request that they be turned off for privacy. There are safeguards to protect housemates from unconscious filming. Signs in rooms warn staff and visitors that the cameras are working.
Both Connecticut’s Commissioner of Health and the state’s nursing home industry have raised privacy concerns.
“The public disclosure of the highly personal material about nursing home residents can be devastating, especially given the inability to infallibly ensure that the data or streaming material cannot be compromised,” said Matthew Barrett, president and CEO of the Connecticut Association of Health Care Facilities. , said in a testimony presented to Connecticut legislators.
Hidden cameras should only be allowed as part of a criminal investigation, he said.
Liz Stern of Stonington, Connecticut, is one of the relatives of nursing home residents who pressured the Connecticut General Assembly to pass a camera bill.
Stern took over the case after the private assistants she hires to provide additional care to her 91-year-old mother were no longer required to see her due to visitor restrictions from COVID-19.
“They would report to us. They put the phone to her ear. They would take pictures. They would settle everything that went wrong there, “Stern said, concerned about neglect, not abuse. Since then, she has been unable to install a camera for several reasons, including opposition from her mother’s roommate’s family.
When Julie Griffith suspected her 96-year-old mother was being abused in a nursing home near Toledo, Ohio, she and her husband placed an audio recorder behind a picture frame last August.
What they heard amazed them – a nurse’s assistant disguised herself as a woman and verbally and mentally abused Griffith’s mother at night. It was enough to have the assistant fired and convicted of abuse and negligence.
Now that they can no longer follow what is happening in her room, they are afraid.
“Since then we have suffered losses and we cannot get answers,” said Griffith.
“They tell us everything is perfect. We can’t know, “said Julie’s husband, David. “Everything is secret.”
Seewer reported from Toledo, Ohio.
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