A recent article in the New York Times brings to light the issues of surveillance cameras in nursing homes. The article talks about one case in Oklahoma where a woman placed a hidden camera in her mother's room and viewed the video after her death. She found that two staff members had stuck a latex glove in her mother's mouth and taunted her. This was a disturbing discovery that led to criminal charges and Oklahoma to explicitly legalize private surveillance in nursing homes. Similar laws also exist in New Mexico and Texas but it is a grey area in the rest of the county.
The idea behind placing cameras in nursing home rooms is to prove that staff members are abusing loved ones and to serve as evidence against them in court. Many people feel that this is a great way to make sure that patients are being treated well and, if not, identify who the abusers are.
Others do not advocate the use of such cameras for various reasons. One being that some nursing home patients do not have the mental ability to give their consent to be video tapped and it is not always the family members who place the camera who are legally allowed to act as their agent. Then there are the rights of the roommates to consider. Some nursing home patients have roommates and recording their actions without their knowledge could be a legal issue. The states with laws allowing the use of cameras require the camera to be stationary and only facing the family member's side of the room. Nursing home staff unions are also against the placement of hidden cameras and many facilities that allow cameras require signs to be placed notifying people of their placement.
In some ways, the increased awareness of hidden camera use could be beneficial to nursing home patients as well. If people believe that there is some chance that their actions are being recorded, they are more likely to act appropriately. From the perspective of catching abusers, this is a bad thing; but from the perspective of keeping patients safe, it is a good thing.
Using cameras seems like a great way to find out how loved are really being treated when no one is around. It seems that the hesitation for nursing homes to embrace their use stems from fear of liability. Nursing homes may be afraid that their employees' actions will be recorded and leave their facility open to lawsuits and negative attention.
One thing is for sure, video surveillance in nursing homes is a topic that is not going away. It will be very interesting to see in coming years how this is handled. Nursing homes will likely lobby to have cameras made illegal in order to protect themselves. When it comes to reducing abuse and making sure loved ones are treated well, cameras appear to be the best way to accomplish this. Even if signs have to be posted alerting staff and guests of their presence, a camera will hold people accountable for their actions.