Capturing nursing home abuse -- or violating workers' privacy?

Readers of this Pittsburgh elder law blog have seen us discuss hidden cameras in nursing home residents' rooms before. Sometimes called "granny cams," loved ones who suspect that a resident is the victim of nursing home abuse sometimes place these cameras in the resident's bedroom to tape what goes on in there when the relatives are not around to monitor the situation. They say that video does not lie, and often the objective lens will reveal what the resident cannot say and what his or her abusers refuse to admit.

But as granny cams have become a more common tool to protect older people from abuse, they have also been criticized by the nursing home industry and others as a possible invasion of staff members' privacy. Some observers worry that roommates' image or conversations may be recorded without their consent also. Though we generally have little right to object to being recorded in a public place such as the street, a residence is a different matter legally.

In response, some states have passed laws affirming the rights of family or friends of a nursing home resident to use a granny cam. In one state, a legislator has introduced a bill that would make it a crime to tamper with an electronic monitoring device in a resident's room or not allow him or her to have one.

Hopefully, as lawmakers examine this issue, they will balance privacy rights with elderly residents' rights not to be beaten, sexually abused or humiliated, which is what these cameras seek to stop.

Source: The Post and Courier, "Hidden camera at Mount Pleasant nursing home sparks legislation, privacy concerns," Andrew Knapp, May 5, 2013