Surveillance Cameras Capturing Elder Abuse
According to an article from the New York Times, in a recent case, a nursing home aide was caught stuffing latex gloves into a dementia patient’s mouth by a surveillance camera that was placed in the patient’s room by a family member. The aide, along with another employee, taunted the patient and physically abused her—and it was all caught on camera for the family to later discover.
The brutal footage propelled an outcry and eventually led Oklahoma to become the third state, along with New Mexico and Texas, to allow surveillance cameras in the rooms of long-term care residents. In most other states, legislative efforts to make this possible have stalled.
The secret monitoring of residents has raised ethical and legal questions—particularly in regard to privacy rights. These questions have been raised primarily by nursing home facility owners and families. The balance between the safety of the resident and an undignified invasion of privacy of the care worker and nursing home visitors is difficult to achieve.
But the fact of the matter is that these surveillance cameras could help bring justice to abused nursing home patients who cannot speak for themselves.
Despite the questions that have prevented official legislation, the government has still used surveillance cameras in certain nursing home negligence cases.
In June 2013, the Ohio state attorney general’s office—with permission from families—placed cameras in residents’ rooms in an unspecified amount of state nursing home facilities. The cameras caught actions such as an aide leaving an incapacitated patient’s food by his bedside and not feeding him. That and similar actions eventually led to the shutdown of the facility.
Relatives who suspect abuse of their elderly loved ones but feel that the authorities dismiss their concerns often turn to placing cameras in potted plants and radios or using webcams and iPhones to capture the culprit.
Abuse is being exposed because nursing home staff and visitors don’t know about the secret cameras. But what if they did know? Privacy experts have stated that this could benefit everyone.
“Notification encourages transparency and reaffirms shared expectations for quality care,” said Joseph DeMattos, the president of the Health Facilities Association of Maryland, which represents long-term care centers.
In the article, a spokesman for the American Health Care Association stated that each state must write its own laws about monitoring in nursing homes. This will ensure that the rights of residents and employees are being recognized and respected. But this type legislation isn’t going to happen overnight.
If you suspect that a loved one is being abused or neglected in a nursing home, it is important to contact an attorney experienced in dealing with these cases. The attorneys at Heiting & Irwin can help you in the event of nursing home negligence.