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Port St. Lucie Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Applaud New Law

Lawmakers in Oklahoma have passed a law allowing nursing home residents and/or their family members to install electronic monitoring systems in their loved one’s rooms.

Our Port St. Lucie nursing home abuse lawyers understand that this legislation came about after a series of incidents in which abuse of elderly victims was uncovered only after the installation of a hidden camera.

In one case, a staff member is seen shoving a latex glove into the mouth of an elderly woman before violently tossing her onto a nearby bed. Family members had suspected something had been going on for a while. What they actually believed was that someone was stealing from her. But they had no proof until they installed that camera.

The woman, they said, suffered from dementia and couldn’t tell them what was happening.

The camera spoke for her. It told a story that was far more disturbing than the one they had initially suspected. Two staffers at the facility were later arrested, with that video becoming the primary evidence in both of those criminal cases.

Incidents such as these are far from isolated, which is why lawmakers in Oklahoma made the Protect Our Loved Ones Act a priority. It’s been proposed every year for the last 12, and finally this year received enough support for passage.

Per the law, the in-room cameras won’t be required, but will be allowed by family or residents who wish to cover the cost out-of-pocket.

Nursing homes would be required to record video only in common areas of the nursing home, while bathrooms and bathing areas would include audio-only recording devices, to protect the privacy of the residents.

Nursing home advocates worry that the cost to install video cameras could potentially put facilities out of business. This is not something we believe is likely to happen. Consider that a report late last year by federal health care inspectors reported that nursing homes in the U.S. raked in $105 billion in revenues in 2010 – a nearly 75 percent increase from the amount they made in 2002.

Trust us: No matter what weak line industry representatives may give to try to curb regulations, these facilities aren’t hurting for money.

Believe it or not, Florida used to be on the front lines of this nursing home camera debate.

Back in 2002, legislators grappled with SB 1714, which called for a year-long pilot program to test the impact of cameras in nursing homes, and whether it could help to curb the instances of neglect, exploitation and abuse of elderly residents. The proposal would have resulted in cameras being installed in common areas and also in private rooms, the latter only if requested by the resident and/or guardian and approved by any roommates.

The cost of the room cameras would have been between $200 and $500, and would have to have been covered by family members. The state would have covered the expected cost of $10,000 per nursing home to have the devices installed in common areas.

However, the bill was vigorously opposed by the Florida Health Care Association, the Florida Medical Directors Association and the Florida Life Care Residents Association. Of course, these were groups with a lot to lose, and they launched an aggressive campaign to have the measure stricken.

They succeeded. The measure was shelved and hasn’t been picked back up again since, despite continued support by the Tallahassee-based Coalition to Protect America’s Elders.

The question of whether it is legal for families who suspect Florida nursing home abuse to install private room cameras has been raised numerous times since. Technically under Florida law, it’s a crime to record someone’s voice without his or her consent.

However, a recent court case, Minotty v. Baudo, held that it is legal to video tape someone, so long as you aren’t recording their voice. In that case, the court even commented that “nanny cams” were in fact a proper way to catch people engaged in suspected misdeeds.

Still, it’s advisable if you suspect abuse of your loved one to first contact an experienced Port St. Lucie nursing home abuse lawyer. This way, you can be sure that your own actions will be on the right side of the law and that whatever evidence you do uncover may be used in court.

Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Law Allows Cameras In Nursing Homes, May 7, 2013, Staff Report, OKCFOX

More Blog Entries:
Florida Nursing Home Abuse Investigation Leads to Fine, April 19, 2013, Port St. Lucie Nursing Home Abuse Lawyer

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