In the context of abuse and neglect at nursing homes and long-term care facilities, there has been the pressing question of whether or not these facilities should be required to keep cameras in order to monitor the conduct of staff at the facilities. In fact we have written previously in this blog about that issue. Many proponents of such cameras have seen it as a tool to capture illegal or wanton behavior, or to find out if patients are truly not getting the proper care and attention they need. Cameras also pose to act as a deterrent to those who might otherwise consider acting inappropriately, and could also motivate staffers to be more attentive to patients, knowing full well that a failure to visit a patient to check in on them, or to administer timely medication, will be evidenced on camera when staffers fail to make their way to that patient’s room for far too long a time.
The controversy over using or not using cameras in nursing homes continues to brew after news out of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where a staffer at a nursing home was sentenced to a 10-year suspended sentence, four years of which she must serve in custody, after she was found guilty of physically abusing an elderly patient at the nursing home where she works and the patient resides. The victim’s family had themselves put a video camera in their mother’s room at the facility in order to figure out why she had suffered from bruising on her arms and face, as well as after she exhibited perpetual fear at the facility.
The video eventually showed a facility staffer “verbally abusing the woman, placing her hand over the woman’s mouth, and even pouring water down her feeding tube.” This heinous behavior encompasses both verbal abuse and physical abuse like physical restraint and clogging of the feeding tube. Interestingly, the abuser expressed gratitude at having been caught, admitting that she was in a bad situation and clearly had a problem. In addition to being an important example of the use of cameras to capture abuse and neglect, it is also yet another sad example of how staffers can be criminally charged and convicted for their behavior. The facilities themselves could also be liable in some form for poor hiring practices in allowing that staffer into the facility and failing to properly vet them, or failing to properly train and supervise them.
States Discussing the Issue
As we have covered before, nearly a year ago another horrible instance of abuse also occurred at an Oklahoma City nursing home, where a staffer shoved latex gloves down a patient’s throat, which a camera caught. States like Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico to not mandate the use of cameras, but do permit nursing home residents to have cameras in their own rooms. Cameras at homes in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania have captured instances of abuse and neglect, and in Ohio cameras were used for investigations into nursing facilities, capturing evidence that helped shut down at least one facility.
The issue of using cameras in nursing homes is one of security versus privacy, and there are seemingly meritorious claims on both sides. It will be interesting to observe how legislatures or state departments of health address this issue, and while mandating cameras may be a long way off, there could be an increasing desire to at least permit such usage so residents and/or their families can make the decision themselves.
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