Elder care abuse and nursing home abuse are the terms we use to describe what happens when a loved one who lives in a senior care facility falls prey to someone trying to take advantage of their physical or mental state — they might take advantage physically, psychologically, or even financially. Often the people who are guilty of this terrible crime are the people who are supposed to be most trusted: the caretakers.
How do we prevent this from occurring?
A topic of conversation that seems to be getting more popular is the idea of surveying individual rooms in care facilities where foul play is suspected, or to deter it altogether. Placing cameras in nursing homes is legally allowed in Illinois, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and Washington. These laws are written for the families; in Utah, facilities themselves are allowed to install cameras.
A Minnesota case shed more light on the epidemic of elder abuse cases in the United States. When one 75-year-old’s daughter became concerned that her mother was not receiving the appropriate standard of care, she took it upon herself to install an expensive camera in her mother’s room — even though there were no laws to provide her with legal backing for this action.
When the nursing home’s staff started to manually point the camera away from her mother’s bed, the woman grew increasingly concerned. She bolted the camera to a piece of heavy furniture in her mother’s room, and then complained to the Minnesota Department of Health, which proceeded to rule in her favor: the nursing home was no longer legally allowed to tamper with the camera that had been placed there for a person’s protection.
The new laws have led others to wonder if legally allowed camera surveillance of nursing home residents and caretakers might go too far, though.
After all, there are obvious privacy concerns that aren’t always properly addressed by fresh legislation. Many of those who are being surveilled have dementia — about half of nursing home residents suffer from the disease — and are unable to provide consent. While it might seem like a simple issue of requesting consent from a resident’s power of attorney instead, things are rarely so easy.
Many nursing homes assign residents two to a room in order to conserve resources. A camera placed in one of these rooms might be legal in the aforementioned states, but is it ethically right? The camera won’t just capture potentially intimate and personal footage of the intended resident — it’ll capture footage of that resident’s unsuspecting roommate, who may not have given any form of consent whatsoever.
It’s easy to see how quickly this might become an even trickier legal situation. One thing’s for sure: the conversation isn’t over yet.