Sadly, the problem of elder abuse is not a new problem in the United States. What is new, however, are the methods people are trying to use to catch the abusers. If you have a parent, or other elderly loved one, that is in long-term care or being cared for by in-home health aids, you probably worry on a consistent basis about the level of care and compassion your loved one is receiving. You undoubtedly stop by as frequently as possible to try and ensure that your loved one is being properly cared for; however, you can’t be there 24 hours a day. A video camera can though. Just like the “nanny cams” used to catch abusive or negligent babysitters and nannies, hidden video cameras are now being used to catch elder abuse. Sounds like a great idea, right? It may be a great idea, but is it legal? As it turns out, it may not be legal in the State of Illinois. An ongoing criminal prosecution for elder abuse in the Ottawa, Illinois area should provide some answers.
The criminal charges stem from the alleged abuse of 88-year-old Francesco Chiurato during the time he was at Pleasant View Luther Nursing Home. According to news reports, Chiurato suffered a stroke and had numerous other health issues that required him to have around the clock medical care – care his family believed he was receiving for the last ten months of his life at Pleasant View. His son, John Chiurato, said his father had been happy at the nursing home until a new aid began working at the facility last summer. His father began complaining shortly thereafter. “My father wouldn’t make up stuff like that. That’s when he caught my attention. That’s when I knew something was up,” Chiurato said.
John decided to take action by setting up a surveillance camera in his father’s room, similar to the nanny cams parents use to catch babysitters abusing or neglecting their children. John was shocked by what the video captured. “She would make him clean himself up after accidents,” Chiurato described. “There’s one situation where she ran up to him and put her middle finger in his face…you could see her cleaning his genital area and then forcing the same rag into his face.” In the police report that was eventually filed a particularly abusive incident was noted wherein “Francesco fell back into the bed from a standing position, and his head went back and over the other side of the bed,” and the certified nurse’s aide did not help him up.
The video evidence was turned over to the Ottawa Police Department which sparked an investigation that led to the arrest of 35-year-old Doris Burke. Burke was charged with felony aggravated battery to a person older than 60 and felony abuse of a long-term healthcare facility resident.
Can the Video Evidence Be Used to Prove Elder Abuse?
It would appear to be a slam dunk conviction for elder abuse given the fact that the State has the defendant on video abusing and neglecting the victim; however, the video evidence may not be admissible at trial. The defendant’s attorney filed a motion to suppress the video evidence arguing that it violates the Illinois Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act which went into effect in January 2016.
The new law requires that any long-term care facility resident who wishes to install a recording device must first notify the facility in writing. The defense attorney also pointed out that the Act states “a sign must be clearly and conspicuously posted at the entrance to a resident’s room where authorized electronic monitoring is being conducted.”
Finally, the defense argues that the video can only be admitted into evidence “if the contents of the recording have not been edited or artificially enhanced.” Not knowing about the law, the victim’s son had edited the video before turning it over the police because it originally had hours and hours of continuous recording that served no purpose.
Whether or not the video in Chiurato’s case is ultimately admitted into evidence remains to be seen as the case is still pending. For anyone with an elderly loved one who needs extensive care, the case serves as a warning not to try and tackle elder abuse on your own. If you believe a love one is being abused, go straight to the facility administrator, the authorities, and/or an experienced elder law attorney in your area for help
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding the need for Medicaid and/or how a Medicaid lawyer can help you with Medicaid planning, contact the experienced Illinois Medicaid planning attorneys at Hedeker Law, Ltd. by calling (847) 913-5415 to schedule an appointment.