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What goes on behind nursing home doors soon may be on camera

The marketing materials for nearly any senior living facility -- a.k.a. nursing home -- focus on the positive. That should not be surprising. No one would put a disabled or aging loved one into a facility that knowingly maintains an environment that isn't in a position to provide the epitome of great care and support.

The sad reality, however, is that there are times when residents in some homes are treated more like inmates. They can suffer abuse at the hands of uncaring workers. They may be neglected because of understaffing. Even the best intentions of loved ones to keep a watchful eye aren't always met and what may happen behind closed doors remains untold.

Thanks to new legislation passed by Illinois lawmakers this year, however, that may be about to change. The measure was signed into law by the governor over the summer and is due to take effect Jan. 1.

What the law allows is the placement of cameras or listening devices in nursing home rooms. What it requires is that residents or their families foot the bill to buy the devices and have them installed. If the resident shares a room with others, all of them have to give their approval for the presence of the video or audio equipment.

Supporters of the law say it should provide residents of homes greater security and provide their loved ones greater peace of mind that levels of expected care are being delivered. And in instances where negligence or abuse is suspected, the availability of the audio or video should make it easier for those seeking compensation to determine if a viable case exists.

In case anyone should think that this is a solution looking for a problem, it might do well to note that Illinois regulators receive about 5,000 complaints about nursing home neglect or abuse every year. In 2013, they determined the complaints were valid in 106 of the cases.

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