This past November, the legislators in Oklahoma took steps to help protect their aging citizens by explicitly giving them and their families the right to put hidden cameras in their rooms at nursing home facilities. It remains unclear, however, whether the footage gathered from these devices will be able to be used in state investigations into facilities.
One woman was told that her mother had fallen out of bed twice in a 12 hour period. Nobody could tell her how long she was left on the floor, but photos of the wound showed a large amount of congealed blood soaked into the 93-year-old’s hair. She was sent to the hospital where she was diagnosed with severe dehydration, and it was discovered that the sippy cup she was using in the facility was completely clogged with black mold. The two alleged falls took place the day after she filed a complaint against the facility. Whether the falls were a coincidence or an act of retaliation, she pulled her mother from the facility to spend her remaining year of life at home.
When she called the state agency to report the incidents she informed them that she had photo evidence of the injuries, only to be told that they would not use them in their investigation because they could be doctored. However, when the Oklahoma State Department of Health was reached for comment they said that they could accept photographs and videos, but may not use them if they could not prove a chain of ownership or authenticity, which is a difficult task for the average family. Wes Bledsoe, a local elder advocate, commented on the reality of retaliatory actions by nursing home staff, and states he fears video evidence will be equally ignored.
The final segment of this report series focused on the lunacy of the slow and ineffective procedure of the Oklahoma Stated Department of Health’s investigations by comparing them to the action taken when a puppy mill is discovered. When the state discovers a puppy mill, where dogs are being bred and kept for profit, often in poor conditions, an outside vet is brought in immediately to check all the animals on site for signs of neglect and abuse. The logic here is that if one animal is being mistreated, there is a problem with care and likely other animals are being mistreated. However, when abuse or neglect in a nursing home facility is exposed, the facility is allowed to complete it’s own investigation, and the state merely reviews the reports the facility gives them. No outside doctor is brought in to check other residents for signs of substandard care. It seems bizarre that the state seems to take more action to stop animal abuse than elder abuse.
Hopefully, the work Fox23 and journalist Clay Looney did to help uncover some of these realities in their four part series will help sway public opinion and create enough awareness that legislators and regulators will be forced to effectively address the problem.