Law proposed in Missouri would protect elderly from abuse

What's the easiest way to protect the vulnerable elderly -- who usually cannot protect themselves and may not even be able to speak -- from the horrors of nursing home abuse?

Two bills introduced to the state House think they have the solution: cameras. One bill seeks to allow families the right to decide if a camera should be installed in a resident's room and doesn't allow the nursing home to veto the decision. The second bill, which has moved to the next stage of approval, would give administrators within the nursing homes the authority to approve or deny the cameras.

Both bills were proposed by the same lawmaker. The bill currently before the House is the one that many hope will ultimately be approved -- although there is heavy opposition by lobbyists working for the nursing home industry. The watered-down version of the bill that gives nursing homes control over the cameras is a compromise version.

Advocates of the stronger bill say that the watered-down version is ineffective and has no real power to prevent some of the horrific examples of elder abuse that have been uncovered in the nation's nursing homes -- including patients who have been sexually assaulted or raped, patients who were denied their medication, and even one senior who was left in sitting in a tub for an entire shift.

Nursing homes say that patient privacy is a concern -- but others say that they're anxious to protect themselves from liability. Advocates for the cameras point out that the videos could also be used to prove a staff member's innocence when there is a false allegation of abuse or neglect. They say that until relatives have a right to put cameras in the room, more seniors will keep on suffering and dying.

If you suspect nursing home abuse or neglect, take action. Report the suspected abuse immediately to authorities outside the nursing home and demand a medical exam by an unaffiliated doctor. Document any signs of injury and explore all available legal options.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Many nursing home residents are abused. Advocates say a Missouri proposal could prevent that," Sky Chadde, April 04, 2018

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