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Hidden cameras in nursing homes: a blessing or a curse?

The news is rife with shocking stories about nursing home abuse, and yet no reformative efforts seem to put a dent in it. Elder abuse cannot be tolerated, but little seems to have been done. Accordingly, many families have turned to using hidden cameras.

A 56-year-old bedridden man with Huntington’s disease was residing in a care home. His family was concerned about him and had a hidden webcam set up in his room. During the course of one month’s monitoring, 17 care workers, including nine nursing assistants and eight nurses, failed to check on him, provide enough liquids and pain medication, or even perform basic incontinence care.

The care records for the patient showed a level of care that did not jibe with the webcam footage. The falsified records attempted to hide his neglect and abuse behind assurances of appropriate treatment.

Web cams, also called nanny cams, are useful for criminal prosecutions. They also have a place in civil personal injury lawsuits, and they help prevent future negligence by acting as a deterrent. However, personal privacy issues come into play. Patient privacy and dignity are serious issues, even more so when the patient at risk is non-compos mentis or when he or she has a roommate. Patients with cognitive issues are unable to give consent to being filmed. 

On the other hand, does that matter when film footage shows nursing home abuse that harms the patient in care?

There are no definitive legal points of view on this issue. If you are facing a situation like this and want to install a nanny cam in a relative’s nursing home room, speak to an experienced attorney first. You need to know what your options are to make an informed decision.