Should I Put A Camera in a Nursing Home?

Introduction

The question of whether you should install a camera in a nursing home is becoming increasingly asked. The short answer is yes should install a camera in the nursing home. Just make sure that it is legal to do so. 

The topic of installing surveillance cameras in nursing homes is a subject of debate. However, that debate has only two sides: those who advocate for cameras because they make residents safer and expose wrongdoing and those in the nursing home industry who have long lobbied against cameras.

In reality, there should be no debate about the impact cameras have on nursing homes. First, they make residents safer. As we all know, we tend to perform better when we are being watched. This is no different for caregivers. Second, when nursing homes fail their residents, cameras provide an objective account of what happened, leading to greater accountability. As they say, “the eye in the sky doesn’t lie.” 

In this article, we will explore the benefits of installing cameras in nursing homes and some things to consider before installing a camera. 

Why Cameras Are Beneficial

Installing cameras in nursing homes can benefit residents, families, and staff. 

Cameras provide families with peace of mind that their loved one is being watched. Families can remotely monitor the care and treatment of their loved ones. This remote access offers reassurance, especially for families who are unable to visit frequently due to distance or other commitments.

The presence of cameras acts as a powerful reminder against potential abuse and neglect by staff members. Knowing they are being monitored, caregivers are more likely to adhere to professional standards and provide compassionate care. This accountability helps maintain a safe and respectful environment for residents.

Cameras serve as valuable evidence in investigations of suspected abuse or neglect. The footage captured can provide objective documentation of interactions between residents and caregivers, aiding in the resolution of disputes and ensuring accountability for any wrongdoing. This objective account benefits everyone. If a resident or family member suspects abuse or neglect, the camera recording will reveal what actually occurred. If there was abuse or neglect, the video will show this. If there was not abuse or neglect, the video will exonerate the staff and nursing home. If the truth matters, then everyone should support the presence of cameras in nursing homes.

Moreover, the implementation of cameras demonstrates a commitment to transparency and accountability within nursing homes. By openly monitoring care practices, facilities promote trust and confidence among residents and their families, fostering a culture of accountability and continuous improvement.

Furthermore, cameras can be utilized for staff training and development purposes. Caregivers can review footage of their interactions with residents to identify areas for improvement and enhance their caregiving skills, ultimately improving the quality of care provided.

The installation of cameras in nursing homes holds numerous benefits, including reassurance for families, prevention of misconduct, evidence for investigations, promotion of transparency, and opportunities for staff development. While privacy considerations must be addressed, the overall positive impact of cameras on resident well-being and safety makes them a valuable tool in ensuring quality care within nursing home settings.

Red Herring Arguments Against Cameras in Nursing Homes

In an effort to dissuade the use of cameras in nursing homes, people in the nursing home industry have proposed many false reasons why cameras should not be used. 

The most common argument against the use of cameras in nursing homes has been that they violate resident’s rights to privacy. There are multiple problems with this argument, however. If the resident chooses to have a camera in his or her room, then it does not violate their right to privacy. They have made a choice to permit the camera. This is no different than if they had a friend or family member visit them in their room. Certainly, no one would argue that having a family or friend of their choosing in the room violated their privacy rights. 

Nursing homes often argue that cameras in common areas violate residents’ privacy rights. This is an equally nonsensical argument. No one has a right to privacy in a common area. That is why it is called a “common area” and not a “private area.” This is why cameras are present in common areas in many of the spaces we enjoy, like shopping centers. This is blatantly obvious when we remember that any person can walk into a nursing home at any time to visit friends or family or to see if the nursing home is a good place for someone they know to potentially live. When they enter the doors of the nursing home, they are certain to see who is in the common areas and what they are doing. If any member of the public can legally observe what you are doing, then it is not private. 

Another false argument is that cameras will deter nursing home caregivers from working there because they will feel self-conscious or won’t want to be on video for some other reason. That is a ridiculous argument. Like anyone else, caregivers have a job to do. They need to do that job whether they are being watched or not. This is like saying that we should not have cameras in banks because it may make some bank tellers uncomfortable or we should remove cameras from police cars because some officers will feel self-conscious. When the truth matters and we have a duty to the public, our personal feelings must take a backseat.

A good employee would be happy to know they are being watched. They would know that the good care they provide will not go unrecognized, and they will feel confident knowing that they cannot be accused of doing something that they didn’t do because it is being recorded.  

The Real Reason Nursing Homes Don’t Want Cameras

The reason many people in the nursing home industry do not want cameras should be obvious. Cameras expose the truth, and if you don’t like the truth, then cameras are a problem. Nursing homes have come up with numerous arguments and explanations for why cameras should not be allowed, but as we saw, none of those hold any weight when scrutinized. No one who supports the truth would ever try to prevent the truth from being captured on video. 

Real Life Examples of Cameras Capturing the Truth 

We frequently have cases where video evidence is available. In many of those cases, without the video, there would be no evidence of what occurred and the nursing home would face zero accountability. We will provide a few examples of cases where the truth would not have been known without the videos. 

Choking Caught on Tape

A family was contacted after their father went into cardiac arrest. When they arrived at the nursing home, they were told by staff that no one knew what happened and that his heart suddenly stopped. The family had an Amazon blink camera in the room that recorded movement. That night, one of the daughters sat down and watched the videos from that day. What she saw sickened and horrified her. Her father was clearly choking and in distress. An aide walks into his room where he is lying on his bed. Rather than assist him or contact a nurse, she hands him a bucket and leaves. He continues to gasp and choke before slumping over. Nearly 15 minutes later the aide walks back into the room. Again, she does not help him. Later, additional nurses enter the room. They don’t begin CPR right away and when they do attempt CPR, they do it incorrectly. Without any coordination, they attempt to get the crash cart that is used for emergencies. However, no one has been trained on how to use it and they cannot locate it. When they do locate it and bring it into the room, they cannot operate the equipment because it is broken. They had not been inspecting it daily like they were required to. Finally, they make the decision to call 911. They can be heard saying on the video that they should be doing CPR when the fire department comes so they do not get sued. The fire department arrives shortly after, since it is only 0.2 miles from the nursing home. The video was essential in both the civil and criminal cases. 

Respiratory Failure on Video 

The family of a man was told that he had a heart attack and died. That, however, was not true. The man was live streaming at the time of the events. He had a breathing apparatus that had come undone. He could clearly be heard saying to a nurse, “I cannot breathe.” Nurses could be heard in the room listening to him and speaking to him. They could also be heard in the hallway just outside his room as he died on video. The video was essential in both the civil and criminal case. 

Freezing to Death When Locked Outside 

A family was told that a 50-year-old man died of a heart attack while smoking a cigarette outside in the morning. Additional evidence provided by a video showed that the man was let outside to smoke a cigarette at 4am. The policy was that the aide who used her key card to let him out was to remain with him at all times. She did not do this, however. She went back inside the building. For hours he struggled as his body temperature dropped. He was found dead when the next nursing shift came on later that morning. The wind chill was in the teens. 

Freezing to Death When the Doors Left Unlocked

An elderly man with dementia went to an assisted living facility because he could not safely live alone any longer. At 9am, his son received a call from the assisted living facility asking if he had picked up his father the night before. He had not. He drove to the facility to find that his father was not in his room. When he asked the nurse what hospital his father was in, he was told that his father was found dead in the parking lot moments earlier. When he watched the video from that night, he saw that his father walked to the front doors and they opened, allowing him to walk out. He was missing for 8 hours before his body was found frozen in the parking lot. It was 7 degrees that night. 

Tripped by an Aide

The family of a 94-year-old woman was told that their mother began to fall in her room but was caught by an aide who gently lowered her to the ground. The family couldn’t understand how this story made sense as she had suffered a broken hip in the incident. When the family watched the video from her room, it contradicted the aide’s story and the medical records. Their mother wasn’t gently lowered to the ground. Rather, their mother was not being assisted at all. An aide had allowed her to walk alone–which was against orders–and then struck the back of her leg with a wheelchair causing her to fall, break her hip, and die shortly after. 

Assaulted by Another Resident

The facility reported that a resident “fell” out of bed. This is what they documented in their records. However, surveillance video revealed that a demented patient was allowed to wander the floor, enter a sleeping female resident’s room, place her hand over her mouth, and throw her off the bed and drag her around without staff realizing it. The resident was mortally injured. She broke both of her shoulders in the assault. She quickly declined and died within days. Without the video evidence, the nursing home would have been able to get away with saying that the resident fell out of bed. This is much different than what really happened, which is that the nursing home didn’t supervise dangerous residents and allowed a vulnerable resident to be fatally attacked. 

Falling While the Staff was on the Phone

In a case we handled, the records indicated that a resident at an assisted living facility suddenly stood and fell without warning. There was a video recording the events, however. The video showed that the resident was at a table in a common area with other residents who were all fall risks. They were supposed to be supervised by a caregiver. The caregiver walked away to talk on the phone, leaving them unsupervised. An elderly resident is seen standing and holding onto the table trying not to fall for minutes. She wobbles back and forth before tumbling backwards and striking her head. She suffered a severe brain bleed and died shortly after the fall. 

Legal Framework

Across the country, there has been a push toward allowing cameras in rooms at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. In Ohio, the debate surrounding the use of cameras in nursing homes has been addressed through legislative measures, including Esther’s Law. Esther’s Law, named after a nursing home resident who suffered elder abuse, was enacted in 2018. It allows families to install surveillance cameras in the rooms of their loved ones in nursing homes to monitor their care.

Under Esther’s Law in Ohio, families are permitted to install cameras in the resident’s room, with certain conditions and guidelines in place. These guidelines typically include notifying the nursing home of the camera’s installation, ensuring that the resident or their legal representative consents to its use, and adhering to specific privacy regulations to protect the rights of other residents and staff members.

While Esther’s Law in Ohio grants families the right to install cameras in nursing home rooms, it’s essential to recognize the complexities surrounding privacy, consent, and legal considerations. For example, ensuring that residents or their representatives provide informed consent is crucial to respecting their autonomy and rights. Additionally, maintaining the privacy of other residents and staff members while still allowing for adequate monitoring is a balancing act that requires careful planning and implementation.

Beyond Esther’s Law, Ohio has additional regulations and guidelines concerning the use of surveillance cameras in nursing homes. These regulations may vary in scope and detail, covering aspects such as camera placement, data storage, access to footage, and privacy protections. It’s important for nursing homes and families alike to be aware of these regulations and adhere to them to ensure compliance and protect the rights of residents and staff members.

Conclusion

The decision to allow surveillance cameras in nursing homes has been driven by benefits of enhanced safety and accountability. Concerns about privacy rights are either non-existent or strongly outweighed by the promotion of resident safety and industry accountability. Before installing a camera, be sure to check your local laws. 

Disclaimer: This information is provided for informational purposes only. Nothing in this article should be construed as providing legal advice or the creation of an attorney client relationship. Laws are updated frequently and change from state to state. If you desire legal advice, you can contact Michael Hill Trial Law at www.protectseniors.com, send an email to info@protectseniors.com, call (800) 659-2712 to begin an investigation or contact another attorney.