Thursday, January 27, 2022

Ohio Families Urged to Act on Nursing-Home Camera Law

Esther Piskor's family says she suffered abuse and neglect in six different nursing homes over a 15-year period. Her struggle resulted in passage of a new law in Ohio. (Elderly Nursing Home Abuse Advocates)

A Cleveland man's crusade to help Ohio families better protect their loved ones in nursing-home care from abuse and neglect will soon come to fruition.

Esther's Law goes into effect March 23. It allows patients in Ohio long-term care facilities to install cameras or other electronic monitoring devices in their rooms.

Steve Piskor, founder of Elderly Nursing Home Abuse Advocates, explained the measure is named after his mother, whom he said suffered abuse at the hands of eight nursing-home workers in 2011.

"I would have never known that the abuse was going on if I didn't put a camera in," Piskor recounted. "One aide went to prison for 10 and a half years; one aide went to jail for six months; three aides were fired, and three aides were disciplined. And the nursing home was fined $357,000."

Since then, Piskor has been advocating to allow the use of cameras in nursing homes. Under Esther's Law, the resident or their guardian is responsible for the cost of the device, as well as installation, maintenance and removal. There were an estimated 15,000 reports of abuse, neglect or exploitation of adults over age 60 in Ohio between 2017 and 2018.

About one in ten caregivers handles those care-giving responsibilities long-distance.

Veronica McCreary-Hall, advocacy volunteer for AARP Ohio, said she drove more than 30 minutes, five to seven days a week, to visit her father in a nursing facility. She believes electronic monitoring would have brought her peace of mind.

"Every time I left, he would always look so sad and say, 'I hate to see you go,'" McCreary-Hall recalled. "It would have been absolutely wonderful for both of us to know that we could see each other, and that I knew exactly what was going on with him."

McCreary-Hall noted COVID-19 underscored the importance of the measure, when nursing-home facilities had to restrict visitations for months on end.

"People who are in facilities, a lot of them cannot advocate for themselves," McCreary-Hall pointed out. "Esther's Law will make so many people comfortable and feel safe, not only on the end of the facility, but also on the end of the loved one."

Piskor encouraged families to start the process of getting a camera installed now.

"Make sure you get a good camera," Piskor urged. "There's a good variety of cameras out there today. And nursing homes are required to let you use their public Wi-Fi, if they have it. And internet providers, they do offer free and low-cost Wi-Fi for people that are low-income and people that are on Medicaid."

Esther's law passed with unanimous support. Ten other states have similar laws, and Piskor said he hopes to see more. A ceremonial signing of the bill, scheduled for this week, was delayed due to the rise in COVID-19 cases. 

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