Earlier last week, nursing home advocates took to the Oklahoma governor's office in hopes of initiating desperately needed nursing home reform talks. Of particular importance a meaty Oklahoma nursing home reform Bill, which sought to address many elder abuse and neglect concerns, was defeated last month. As a Pennsylvania and New Jersey nursing home abuse attorney I was interesting in a proposed Oklahoma House Bill 2901 much of which was geared towards supplementing elder care resources as a means of preventing nursing home abuse and neglect. House Bill 2901 was tailored to increase nursing home staff, create medical director oversight, and other measures. The House Bill did not make it to committee, but it did help shed light on staggering cases of elder abuse that on average is greatly underreported. The Oklahoma based grassroots long-term care reform organization, A Perfect Cause, estimates that more than 3,500 nursing home residents in Oklahoma die each year from nursing home abuse and neglect. The House Bill 2901 would have address preventable deaths and injuries in two separate areas of interest, mandated increased nursing staff, and the state required investigation of family members and the accused, while investigating elder abuse claims. As reported by Oklahoma's Own News 9, there were disagreements in the language and content of the bill, but lawmakers look optimistically to the next session in which to work out their disagreements. Wes Bledsoe, an advocate for nursing home reform, and President and Co-Founder of A Perfect Cause, estimates that about 62,000 cases of nursing abuse goes unreported nationwide. Underreporting is one of the many hurdles in addressing nursing home abuse and elder abuse on both a state and federal level.
Nursing home abuse reform has remained in Oklahoma's legislature since the December 2012, disturbing nursing home abuse that was caught on tape. A hidden camera in 96-year-old Eryetha Mayberry's nursing home room exposed the devastating abuse she was being subjected to on a daily basis by members of the nursing staff. Mayberry suffered from dementia, which requires greater care and more supervision as the patient's capacities diminish. Dementia patients are particularly vulnerable to unscrupulous residents and staff members in nursing homes that take advantage of a patient, knowing full well that their victim will not be able to fully recall the transgressions. Mayberry's daughter, Earlene Adkisson, installed the camera after she believed items were disappearing from her mother's room. The extreme instances of abuse caught on camera including rough handling, choking, blocking the resident's airways and more, totally shocked and horrified Mayberry's family. The reported images left many questioning whether "granny cams" or monitoring devices were needed to keep themselves and their loved one's safe. Oklahoma lawmakers say they have seen a rise in proposed legislation for the installation and monitoring of cameras in common areas of nursing homes. However, informed consent for monitoring in nursing homes is a complicated legal terrain, as you have to balance the general welfare of the residents and the individual resident's right to privacy. Many opponents strongly believe that the safer alternative is to add more quality staff to help ease the burden of daily care.