Cameras in Nursing Homes – Protection vs. Privacy

Empty wheelchair

Concerns about nursing home abuse and the safety of residents in nursing homes have led some states to allow cameras to be placed in nursing home rooms.

Oklahoma recently became the third state to explicitly allow video surveillance in nursing home patients’ rooms. Although a relative has always had the right to install a camera in a loved one’s room in a long-term care facility, the Oklahoma law allows a third party to install a camera with consent.

Proponents of the “granny cams”, as they have come to be called, argue that in-room cameras deter abuse and neglect – or provide evidence of it if it occurs. Opponents of the hidden cameras point to privacy concerns not just of the patient but of others who may share the room or enter the room.

Although the issue of cameras in nursing homes has been the subject of proposed legislation in the past, the State of Washington does not have a law that addresses third-party monitoring of nursing home patients. If you suspect abuse, it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced Washington State nursing home attorney to find out what legal options you have and to ensure that any action you take is legal.

Unfortunately, the elderly are abused and neglected at an alarming rate in the United States. With the elderly population growing at a faster rate than any other segment of the population, this means that a significant percentage of the U.S. population is at risk of being abused or neglected on a daily basis.

One reason why the elderly are often targeted is that many are unable, or unwilling, to speak out against their abusers. Nursing home residents are often dependent on the staff for everything from bathing to eating to taking medication. This dependence often causes a patient to fear reprisals if abuse or neglect is reported. Making matters worse is the fact that a large percentage of patients in long-term care facilities are suffering from age-related dementia, meaning they are unable to remember the abuse or neglect they suffer.

Not surprisingly, this often leads frustrated and worried loved ones to take drastic measures, such as installing hidden cameras in the room to try and find out how their loved one is really being treated. Unfortunately, a family’s fears are sometimes confirmed when they view the video captured by a hidden camera.

In the case that spurred the new Oklahoma law, a hidden camera captured an aid stuffing latex gloves in the mouth of a 96-year-old patient while another aid taunted her. They then basically threw her on the bed after which one aid performed a few “heavy-handed” chest compressions. Similar cases have made the news in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

The Oklahoma law requires notification to be given that videotaping is underway. Again, there is a debate as to whether notification should be given or not. Some argue that when employees know they are being videotaped they will be on their best behavior while others argue that notification defeats the purpose, as no abuse or neglect will be uncovered if the perpetrators know they are being taped.