The S.C. Senate Medical Affairs Committee's recent 7-7 vote on legislation to allow residents of nursing homes to install electronic monitoring systems demonstrates a need for more critical analysis of the subject. The news has been inundated with reports on alleged neglect of nursing home residents throughout the nation. No one can argue there is a need to ensure better care and treatment of our elderly.
Many abuse cases that have been in the media were exposed through the use of video cameras that had been placed by family members trying to confirm the safety of their loved ones. This has resulted in residents and family members pressing for more legislation to allow the use of video cameras.
The issue has sparked much discussion and brought with it a multitude of principled questions, which must be discussed when creating and implementing a new policy.
We must not forget that these are places residents call their home, where all their private and personal moments take place.
This should be a place of peace, comfort and security, but some are living out their final days in a desperate torture unable to speak up for themselves.
Those who support the use of electronic monitoring believe that it will end or significantly reduce the instances of cruelty and negligence in facilities and thereby improve the residents' quality of life and well-being. The use of video surveillance could also eliminate suspicion of any wrongdoing on behalf of the facility.
Those who are opposed to residents' use of cameras in the nursing home often stress concern that retaining staff will be more difficult, given the scrutiny of electronic monitoring. Another concern is how to maintain the privacy rights of the staff and residents.
These ethical and privacy concerns need to be evaluated against the weighty cost of abuse and neglect. Currently, there are no federal laws that directly address this issue.
Under the Federal Residents Rights regulation, 483.10, residents have the right to self-determination, dignified existence and communication with persons inside and outside the nursing home, and nursing homes must protect and promote these rights.
Texas and New Mexico are the first two states to enact legislation to permit the installation of cameras by nursing home residents. Neither statute allows for covert monitoring.
Until we can be assured that our loved ones placed in care facilities are being properly cared for, the dispute over the use of video cameras is not going away. Nor should it.
Video cameras cannot take the place of proper training and care on behalf of the staff, but they can add to a resident's sense of security. Protecting the rights of the resident should be of the utmost importance.
The residents have the right to safety, privacy and dignity. According to the Administration on Aging, there annually are more than two million reported cases of elder abuse, neglect or exploitation in the U.S.
It is believed that for every reported case of elder mistreatment or negligence, up to five cases do not get reported. Unfortunately elder abuse happens, but we can all act to protect seniors.
Do not let Senate bill 662 stay undecided. Call for reform, for action. Be a voice. Be an advocate.
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