Nursing home abuse and neglect is a growing problem, and one possible part of the solution – placing video cameras in patients’ rooms on a voluntary basis – is facing serious obstacles.
Last year, a Congressional committee conducted a study and found that 30 percent of nursing homes in the United States had, collectively, been cited for nearly 9,000 instances of abuse and neglect. The incidents included malnutrition, dehydration, inadequate medical care, untreated bedsores and preventable accidents, as well as direct physical abuse.
The problem may actually be much larger, because some nursing home patients with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementia may be unable to report the abuse.
One solution is the “granny cam,” a video camera placed in a resident’s rooms and monitored by family members. In a recent Florida case, the son of a 76-year-old Alzheimer’s patient placed a video camera in his father’s room after noticing unexplained bruises. The man’s father was not able to speak, but the camera captured two nursing aides apparently physically abusing the man. The two nursing home employees now face criminal charges.
Video monitoring can protect elderly nursing home residents in two ways. First, they act as a deterrent, because employees who know they are being watched are more likely to follow guidelines for the care and treatment of residents. Second, if abuse or neglect does occur, video footage can provide crucial evidence that can be used to gain compensation in a lawsuit. Such compensation can be essential in finding better quality care for an elderly loved one who has suffered abuse and in repairing some of the injuries inflicted by it.
Though the public has become more aware of nursing home abuse and the potential of granny cams to prevent it, the widespread use of such cameras still faces certain obstacles. In Illinois, for example, the cameras are not prohibited by law in nursing homes, but individual facilities may have policies that prevent them from being installed. The facilities sometimes invoke the residents’ privacy rights, but they probably also worry about liability or that employees will not want to work under constant monitoring.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan now plans to introduce legislation that will explicitly allow residents and their families to place video cameras in nursing homes in the state. The families would own the cameras and the footage, and facility management would not have access to them. Roommates would have to consent, and a notice would have to be posted to warn employees and visitors that they could be recorded.