All the Better to See You With: Cameras in Nursing Homes

Recent years have seen rapid advances in camera technology. Smaller and easier to use than ever before, these ubiquitous observers can be found everywhere from cellphones to dashboards, traffic lights to police uniforms. Cameras today can take still photos, record video footage, and stream live events, with or without audio. Many people have resorted to using cameras to keep an eye on their home or their pets while they are away. Families, as well as long-term healthcare facilities, have even turned to electronic surveillance as a way to monitor nursing home interactions.

In 2001, Texas became the first state to specifically legalize allowing video cameras in nursing homes. The next year, a task force made up of officials from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration and the Attorney General's Office recommended that the Florida legislature should expand the allowance of so-called “granny cams” from facility placement in common areas to patient rooms if residents or their families requested them. Many states have since debated similar legislation with varying degrees of success in handling the thorny privacy issues that are intertwined with surveillance. For example, Oklahoma allows families to put cameras in residents’ rooms as long as consent forms are filed, thereby putting the facility on notice.

Consent is key, and allowing a resident to be recorded without it may violate federal HIPAA provisions. However, it can be hard to determine whether a person in a care facility is sufficiently mentally competent to give consent. And what about those individuals who reside in double-occupancy rooms? They likely need consent from the other roommate before surveillance can take place. Furthermore, a camera may inadvertently capture other residents, employees and visitors who have not consented; and the recording of audio can be considered eavesdropping or wiretapping, depending on how the conversation took place.

The federal government has recently given its lowest rating to 10 nursing homes within a 100-mile radius of Miami. If you have a loved one at any of these facilities in South Florida, or in any of the 135 others, consider finding out more about electronic surveillance protection.

  • Coral Bay Health Care and Rehabilitation in West Palm Beach
  • Coral Reef Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in South Miami-Dade
  • Fair Havens Center in Miami Springs

Successful electronic monitoring of nursing home residents requires a balancing act between privacy and protection. The biggest arguments in favor of surveillance revolve around the quality of patient care. Cameras show the type of care that residents receive, while also acting as a deterrent to abuse and neglect. The footage can provide evidence to help substantiate claims that otherwise might not be taken seriously, empowering the residents and their families. Cameras also help workers by discouraging false allegations, easing fears of retaliation against those who speak up about mistreatment, and offering an alternative training tool. Nursing homes can benefit through a decrease in liability insurance premiums, attracting quality staff (thereby decreasing employee turnover), and reducing workers’ compensation claims. Of course, cameras should not be allowed to replace staff, should not be relied on as the sole mechanism for catching abuse/neglect, and must have their footage examined carefully, given the constant potential for misinterpretation of events.

While cameras in nursing home public areas are installed and maintained by the facility, the costs of monitoring in patient rooms are the responsibility of the resident or their legal representative. Although the facility may be expected to provide a reasonably secure place to mount the device, access should be limited to the resident or their representative, and notice of the monitoring should be posted on the door. Preventing abuse and neglect in nursing homes is an important issue, and although cameras can be invaluable tools in that fight, they must be used in ways that do not overly expose the vulnerable members of society that they are intended to protect. Overseeing patient care through video footage means documenting everything from eating to sleeping, bathing to consensual sexual relations.

If you suspect someone you love is being abused or neglected in a nursing home, take a moment to learn more about how our firm can be of assistance to you. As one of South Florida's most respected and oldest law firms, Stabinski Law has helped many people sort out their legal rights, responsibilities, and remedies. For 45 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless personal injury victims and their families. We also work on a contingency basis, which means that if there is no recovery, there is no fee or cost to you. We encourage you to contact us for a free consultation by calling 305-643-3100 or filling out a case evaluation form.

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