CLEVELAND — Esther’s Law, aimed at protecting nursing home residents by allowing their families to set up a camera in their room, is now in effect in Ohio following approval from Governor Mike DeWine and a series of News 5 investigations.
Families can now request cameras inside their loved one’s nursing home starting Wednesday after notifying the facility and receiving verification of the use of a fixed-lensed camera. If a loved one has any roommates, they also must sign an agreement.
Ohio leaders and the family behind Esther’s Law say this is just the start.
In 2011, Steve Piskor placed a hidden camera in his then 78-year-old mother’s, Esther, room at an elderly nursing home. Piksor says he suspected abuse by an aide.
“What she went through, it was, was a horrific experience,” he said. “It was something that I had to do... I don't want to see anybody go through that again.”
With the video proving abuse, Pisklor went to trial. The aide responsible, Virgen Caraballo, pleaded guilty to 7 counts of gross patient abuse and was sentenced to 10 years. She was granted early release in 2019 after serving six years. Caraballo was ordered into a rehab program and cannot have contact or work with any elderly ever again.
But Piskor also reached out to local leaders like State Representative Juanita Brent of Cleveland.
“I've had an Esther in my life and I wish I would have had cameras during that time period when my mother was in a rehabilitation center,” Brent said.
Brent first sponsored legislation allowing families to set up cameras in nursing homes to catch potential abuse in 2019, but the bill failed.
“It really was an eye-opener of how much we needed things such as Esther's law.”
But in 2021, State Senator Nickie Antonio joined in support. That same year, Esther's Law passed unanimously through the House and Senate.
“We really worked together on getting this over the finish line,” Antonio said. “Making sure that everyone understood that there's parts of this bill that can actually work for their benefit, that this isn't a gotcha bill.”
DeWine signed Esther’s Law in December of 2021. The legislation, in honor of Piskor’s mother who passed in 2018, is now in effect 90 days later.
And it won’t be the last.
Piskor says he and other legislators are pushing to include protection in assisted living facilities and group homes.
“This is a law for nursing homes. They must follow this law,” Piskor said. “If I would have this for my mother, you know, it might have stopped the abuse.”
If you suspect elderly abuse or neglect. you can call Cuyahoga County's Division of Senior and Adult Services Hotline at 216-420-6700. You can also report elder abuse through the state's website.