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Ohio Nursing Home Camera Bill Known As "Esther's Law" Passes Unanimously

A nursing home employee with a resident.
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Of more than 9,000 nursing homes analyzed, 61% were cited for one or more infection-control deficiencies.

Gov. Mike DeWine will soon decide whether to sign a bill that passed unanimously in the Ohio House and Senate – a rare circumstance. It’s a bipartisan measure to allow families of nursing home residents to put cameras in their rooms, an idea that gained support when those facilities were shut down during the pandemic.

Steve Piskor put a hidden camera in his mother Esther’s Cleveland nursing home room ten years ago when she was in her late 70s and living with dementia. He said though he went to visit her every day, it wasn't until he installed the hidden camera that he saw aides scream at her, spray liquid into her face, fling her body around and neglect her.

“The only way that I caught the abuse was with the hidden camera. I mean, there was no other way," Piskor told the House Families & Aging Committee in September before the committee approved the bill and sent it to the House floor. "I would go to the nursing home every day, and the aides were as nice as can be. I mean, I’d walk in and the aides were, ‘Oh, hello Mr. Piskor, how are you?’ and you know, they’d be, ‘oh, your mother is doing fine today and everything’s fine.'”

Piskor said he first took the video to police, to the nursing home administrator, and then to local news outlets in Cleveland. Eventually, police and the Ohio Attorney General's office investigated the abuse.

Two aides went to prison for their treatment of Esther Piskor, who died in 2018.

Esther’s Law would set up standards for families who want to buy and install cameras in their loved one’s rooms. The bill would require roommates to consent and for signs to be posted indicating an electronic monitoring device is in the room. It also bans discrimination or retaliation by nursing home staff against residents who have authorized cameras.

Aides say cameras could help them too.

Sandra Ketterman is a registered nurse who’s worked at an Alzheimer’s care facility in Ohio. She said cameras in rooms would help nursing home staff, who she said are often overworked and underpaid.

“Staff needs this law to pass to allow us to lovingly care for your family members," Ketterman told the House committee in September. Cameras would support accurate resident-to-staff ratios. Cameras would be a definite deterrent to falsifying documentation of care not done.”

The bill, sponsored by Sens. Nickie Antonio (D-Lakewood) and Andrew Brenner (R-Delaware), passed unanimously. It now awaits Gov. Mike DeWine's signature.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.