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All Press Releases for December 16, 2013 »
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Will Surveillance Cameras End Nursing Home Abuse?

A watchful eye may be the better alternative to no eye at all in a situation where abuse of elderly or otherwise vulnerable residents is known to happen.
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    MIAMI, FL, December 16, 2013 /24-7PressRelease/ -- Jan Hoffman with the New York Times writes about a watchful eye in nursing homes -hidden cameras that record nursing aides and other employees who work to provide care for aging people living in long-term care facilities. Hoffman's piece starts out with a bang: "My niece started bawling and couldn't watch anymore. I was furious."

This is the quote taken of a woman whose mother died in a long-term care facility, shortly after suffering abuse at the hands of nursing aides. Though it's not clear whether the abuse directly caused her mother's death, the hidden camera the woman placed in her mother's room (disguised inside an alarm clock) revealed footage that was unequivocal in terms of what had happened.

Hoffman describes how, based on the footage from the hidden camera, aides "stuffed latex gloves into Mrs. Mayberry's mouth, while another taunted her, tapping her on the head, laughing. Hoisting her from her wheelchair, they flung her on a bed. One performed a few heavy-handed chest compressions."

Mrs. Mayberry was 96 years old.

Presumably, this abuse would not have occurred had the aides known there was, indeed, a "watchful eye" keeping tabs on the goings-on in the room. But the aides didn't know. And, presumably, if a hidden camera revealed abuse here, it's likely that similar cases of abuse happen elsewhere in nursing homes across the country.

The big question is to what extent it happens and how often.

Nursing home abuse, in whatever form, be it bed sores from substandard care or out-and-out physical abuse like the kind Mrs. Mayberry suffered, destroys one's dignity in the final years of one's life. This is in stark contrast to Florida's nursing home residents' bill of rights, which, among other things, seeks to provide the right for the elderly to be treated courteously, fairly and with the fullest measure of dignity.

Abuse can be the source of unexplained injury or even death, a problem which surveillance cameras could help solve, at least partially. It's hard to see how they could make the problem worse. But as Hoffman explains, cameras give rise to a number of issues.

First, there's the privacy of the residents themselves. Camera footage could capture private moments between residents, like sexual encounters, as one prime example.

Second, nursing aides and other employees may do a good job in their caregiver roles, but struggle from time to time with caring for a resident. Hoffman writes that Dr. Mark Lachs with Weill Cornell Medical College is "concerned that recordings may be misinterpreted" where residents have become aggressive and fight back against well-meaning care.

Our take is that cameras - whether they're secret or out in the open - may be the better alternative in a situation where abuse of elderly or otherwise vulnerable residents is known to happen. When there may be no other way to find out about it, other than by seeing evidence that it has already happened - which by then is too late - a watchful eye is preferable to no eye at all.

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