Are Security Cameras An Ethical Way Of Preventing Nursing Home Abuse?

The conversation is just getting started: more and more people are starting to realize that the loved ones who spend their final days in nursing homes are more at risk of nursing home abuse than ever before. This phenomenon describes what happens when someone takes advantage of a patient — financially, physically, or emotionally. Many times the people hurting our loved ones are the caretakers themselves. But what can we do about it?

When one woman’s daughter became concerned that her 75-year-old mother was not being properly cared for, she bought a camera to make sure. But the staff manually pointed it away, making the expensive purchase pointless — until she brought the case to the Minnesota Department of Health, that is, and physically attached the camera to furniture in the room. She lodged a formal complaint with the organization to ensure a decision would be reached.

The Minnesota Department of Health ruled in her favor, barring the nursing home from removing or tampering with the camera. At least seven states have already written legislation to give families the right to watch caretakers do their jobs. According to the laws, it gives family members peace of mind and helps deter nursing home abuse

But many have contended that spying on people while they work is responding to unethical behavior with unethical behavior. Not only that, but it can also be considered spying on the very people whose interests family members are trying to protect. So which side is right?

It’s a complex subject, but there are obvious concerns. One is privacy. It can be asked whether or not a resident of a nursing facility would really want each and every potentially personal conversation recorded. Would they really want the care they receive available for their family members to watch? Caretakers help residents change clothes, wash up, or in some cases use a bedpan. As far as invasion of privacy goes, the addition of cameras to care facilities is a big deal.

One person might say, “No problem. All you have to do is obtain consent!” 

Another person might ask, “How do you obtain consent from a person who has dementia?”

And therein lies the problem. Legally, it might seem like a matter of power of attorney. That means children, relatives, or even their lawyers might have the ultimate say in whether or not a camera can be installed. But there’s another rub: nursing home rooms are usually shared between two or more residents. That means a camera installed to keep an eye on one resident might inadvertently capture intimate footage of another resident who didn’t give consent.

We’re interested in hearing from you! Let us know what you think about this conversation. Should cameras be allowed in nursing homes to prevent elder abuse?