When Old Love Hurts: Turning the Cameras On Elder Abuse


Illinois Leads the Charge in Ending Nursing Home Abuse with Surveillance

Elder abuse is one of the more pervasive forms of abuse in the United States, yet it’s rarely discussed in public forums. It’s something the healthcare community has tried to shove under the rug for years, but Illinois policymakers are shining a new light on the issue.

Video Exploits Instances of Nursing Home Abuse

According to police reports from a recent incident in Lowell, Massachusetts, two nursing home employees are being accused of abusing residents at a local facility and posting videos of the abuse on the popular social media platform, Snapchat.

“Around 2 p.m. on July 31, Lowell Police were called to Wingate at Belvidere Nursing Home on Wentworth Avenue after relatives claimed that inappropriate videos of the nursing home residents had been posted on Snapchat by 23-year-old Sabrina Costa and 22-year-old Kala Shaniece Lopez,” a local newspaper reports.

In the video, one of the patients was asked inappropriate questions about sex and marijuana. In another, one of the employees yells at a patient while she’s asleep, attempting to scare her.

While Costa and Lopez are trying to claim the videos were a “joke,” the police are treating the instances of alleged abuse as anything but a laughing matter. Costa has been charged with assault and battery on an elderly or disabled person, as well as permitting abuse on an elderly or disabled person. Lopez was only charged with the latter.

In a totally separate instance, a nursing home worker in Creve Coueur, Missouri was caught on camera shoving an 84-year-old man at a local nursing home. The video clearly shows the elderly man entering the room on a walker and being shoved by 31-year-old Ernestine Cobbins after simply opening a drawer.

Cobbins was charged with third-degree elder abuse and plead guilty to the charge. She was sentenced to community service and probation, in addition to being terminated from her job at the nursing home.

Illinois Approves Cameras in Nursing Homes

Because video has successfully allowed law enforcement to track down abusers in multiple states, lawmakers across the country have begun fighting for the right to allow residents to install cameras in their nursing home rooms. The hope is that the presence of these cameras will allow families to better and prevent and identify cases of elder abuse.

“The Illinois Department of Public Health receives approximately 19,000 complaints of abuse and neglect against long-term care residents yearly,” said Bob Gallo, state director of AARP Illinois. “AARP commends the General Assembly and Governor Rauner for their leadership on this issue and for helping to protect the state's most vulnerable residents.”

The new legislation allows for residents and their families to use modern recording devices in their rooms to detect and prevent cases of abuse. The recordings will only be able to be used for criminal, civil, and administrative proceedings that are related to “the health, safety, or welfare of a resident.”

It’s also important to note that residents and their families will be required to foot the bill for the equipment and installation of such devices. If a resident has a roommate, both roommates must give consent. Furthermore, the facility manager must be notified if monitoring equipment is installed, and a sign must be placed on the door of the room clearly stating that the room is electronically monitored.

Huge Leap Forward

While this new law may seem insignificant to those unfamiliar with elder abuse, this is a monumental victory for the elderly and their families. Thanks to widespread exposure of recent abuse, lawmakers have been able to apply enough pressure to local communities and put in place a law that will prevent and identify thousands of individual cases of abuse.