Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Surveillance Cameras in Nursing-Home Facilities ; A Pilot Program Will Install Video Cameras for Some Nursing-Home Residents. They Will Also Allow Family Members to See Each Other as They Talk on the Phone

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Surveillance Cameras in Nursing-Home Facilities ; A Pilot Program Will Install Video Cameras for Some Nursing-Home Residents. They Will Also Allow Family Members to See Each Other as They Talk on the Phone

Article excerpt

Sue Hecht knew something was wrong when she knocked on the door of her mother's room in a Maryland nursing home and heard an angry voice yell back, "What do you want?" When Ms. Hecht entered, she found an aide screaming and swearing at her mother. The older woman was crying.

Shocked, Hecht reported the incident to administrators, and the abusive aide was fired. "They took very appropriate action," she says approvingly. But, she adds, "I also know this wasn't the first infraction. If I hadn't walked in, I don't know how much longer that person would have been there."

To prevent abuses like these, Hecht, a delegate in the Maryland legislature, introduced a bill that would allow nursing home residents to install video cameras in their rooms, at their own expense. Roommates would need to give written consent. A notice posted on the door would indicate the presence of a camera.

No federal law forbids video cameras in nursing facilities. But, Hecht adds, "Nursing homes in a lot of states are blocking cameras and saying, 'No, you can't do this.' "

A 1999 study by the US General Accounting Office found that one- fourth of the nation's nursing homes have deficiencies serious enough to have harmed residents or placed them at risk of injury or death.

Opponents of surveillance cameras regard them as an invasion of privacy. "People need to understand that some very private moments can be captured," says Deborah Cloud of the American Health Care Association, which represents nursing homes.

Critics also caution that behavior caught on film can be easily misinterpreted. They offer an example: If a resident is in the dining room and asks an employee to retrieve an item she left in her room, a tape of the worker opening a drawer with no one present could be used to allege theft.

Such incidents could make facilities "ripe for frivolous lawsuits," says Adam Kane, director of public policy for the Mid- Atlantic Nonprofit Health and Housing Association. …

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