Steve Piskor placed a camera in his mother’s room at Summit County Nursing Homes in 2011. The video recorded eight aides abusing his then-78-year-old mother, Esther, who had Alzheimer’s disease and died in 2018. Eventually, two of the aides went to prison, three were fired and three were disciplined, Piskor said.
The family’s experience with elder abuse inspired Senate Bill 255 and House Bill 461, or “Esther’s Law,” companion measures introduced in the Ohio legislature in December. It would allow residents of facilities like nursing homes and assisted living facilities to set up a video recording device in their room.
“I’m not trying to say all aides are bad and all nursing homes are bad. … What we’re trying to do is just stop the abuse,” said Piskor, 65, of Cleveland.
Piskor shared his experience during the second meeting of the Summit County Nursing Homes and Facilities Task Force on Tuesday morning in the Greater Akron Chamber office.
One of the primary focuses of the task force is staffing issues. Kim Hone McMahan, a retired Beacon Journal reporter and columnist whose 103-year-old mother was injured in a nursing home in May, said staff at nursing homes and other facilities are often underpaid, under-trained and difficult to retain, saying she’s found some facilities with a turnover rate of 100%.
“Many if not most incidents in nursing homes are [due to] a lack of staffing, proper staffing,” said McMahan, saying the lack of proper staffing “has reached a crisis.”
“Without staff, we’re not going to have the quality of care that we’re looking for,” attendees said.
Preliminary ideas from the task force include a workforce development initiative with Stark State College and a Peace Corps-style training program within the county for young people interested in health care or caregiving. The program would allow them to get experience in nursing homes and other facilities and potentially be hired permanently in the future.
“We’ve been hearing this ever since we mentioned we were looking into this, not only from the providers of the service but from families who have loved ones in the facilities,” Summit County Council President Jeff Wilhite said of staffing issues.