ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- Many of us, young and old, have had to face the hard reality of placing a loved one in a nursing home. You worry for their happiness and their safety.
Would you feel better if you could put a camera in your loved one's room?
Supporters of the idea say cameras can help prevent abuse and neglect. But the idea faces serious opposition.
Martha Eudaley has made it a personal mission to allow cameras in nursing homes. Due to failing health, several years ago, her husband of 52 years, Tom, entered a local nursing home.
On a visit, Martha says she noticed a gruesome smell.
“I pushed on the door and it opened and he was sitting in his chair, head down, lifeless,” Martha said.
She says Tom had been horribly neglected. Riddled with bedsores and spiking fevers, she says he was hospitalized, but never recovered.
“Is there any doubt in your mind that it was neglect?” asked Investigative Reporter Lauren Trager. “Not at all. Not at all,” Martha said.
Martha is still overcome with emotion and says she never could have imagined that it would happen to him.
“It’s just heartbreaking to me, heartbreaking that people cannot understand,” she said. “But for the grace of God, that could be you.”
She says one thing could have made the difference, a camera inside her husband's room.
“Oh, I know it would have, because I would have seen everything that’s happening,” she said.
At a nursing home in the Detroit area, a suspicious son planted a hidden camera.
“I decided to get solid evidence and hard evidence,” said Salim Younes.
He says he was shocked to see the video. The camera captured a nearly 90-year man being thrown, slapped and berated.
“Horrible, unspeakable verbal and physical abuse, torture, this was a living hell for this gentleman,” said Jonathan R. Marko, the Younes' attorney.
The family sued.
Other videos from around the country depict horrifying acts of abuse. But in those instances, they often used hidden cameras.
Advocates say they'd like residents to have the choice to use the cameras out in the open.
“When you look at society today, cameras are really everywhere,” said Mary Lynn Faunda Donovan with VOYCE, an advocacy group for residents in long-term care facilities.
She says a "recording in progress" sign inside a resident’s room, she says, could prevent abuse and neglect.
“I think they would have a greater sense of security if they could just check in on their loved one because family members just cannot be there 24 hours a day," Donovan said.
Under Missouri law, a resident of nursing home could be kicked out if a facility finds a camera. Donovan says she wants a law that protects the right of residents.
"The key thing is that the resident has the control over that camera and when it’s on and when it’s off,” Donovan said.
Ten other states, including Illinois, have already passed what have become known as “Granny Cam” laws.
“I think it’s time for Missouri to take a hard look and these should be an important tool available for residents and their families,” said Donovan.
Right now, two proposed bills in Jefferson City address the issue. One leaves it up to the facility to decide if cameras will come in. The other leaves it up to the resident but the nursing home industry is strongly opposing it.
“This is just more regulations being piled onto an already over-regulated industry,” said Keith Sappington with the Missouri Assisted Living Association, who says they're against any bill that mandates a resident's right to a camera.
They’ve worried about privacy concerns or additional lawsuits.
“We were concerned that electronic monitoring, where is that feed going, who is looking at that feed? Is it going to be a HIPPA violation?” Sappington said.
Instead, they want it left up to each facility.
But State Representative Jim Murphy, R- South County, doubts many nursing homes would allow cameras.
“It should be up to the patient and their family, they are the ones we are trying to protect, not the nursing home,” he said.
Martha, grateful for Murphy's bill, says Missouri must take action to protect loved ones from tragedy.
“Why are people so afraid of change? Make these people accountable for what they do,” she said. “Unless we do something this could be your mother, it could be your father, your child.”
Martha did not want to name the nursing home in her husband's case, because she was too distraught at the time to take any legal action against them.
The legislative session ends next week, so it’s unlikely either bill will pass, but it’s certainly not the last the issue will be raised.
If you want to contact your lawmaker, you can look up who they are here.