“Granny Cam” Technology May Be Effective at Deterring Nursing Home Abuse

The use of surveillance cameras to monitor treatment of elderly patients by nursing home staff, sometimes known as “granny cams,” is becoming more and more common in Maryland and around the country. While granny cams raise some concerns about the privacy rights of the patients, they have proven to be effective at exposing abuse that might have otherwise gone undiscovered, and state legislatures and agencies are taking notice.

This Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog has previously reported on incidents when granny cams provided evidence of abuse, including a New Jersey case in which the family of a nursing home patient have sued for wrongful death after finding footage of an employee removing the patient’s oxygen mask and hitting her, which they claim led to her death. An Ohio man captured evidence of nursing home staff slapping his Alzheimer’s-stricken mother, shoving her into bed and into her wheelchair, and slamming her against walls. Three nursing home workers in Pennsylvania were arrested when hidden camera footage showed them mocking a patient while forcing her to stand topless.

The nursing home industry has vigorously fought legislative efforts to compel nursing homes to allow placement of cameras in patients’ rooms. Privacy advocates, as well as doctors, have also opposed such legislation at times, arguing that placement of cameras could be used to violate patients’ privacy, considering that nursing home patients requiring assistance in performing daily routines may often appear undressed on camera. Nursing homes further argue that the use of cameras may erode the trust between patients and staff and act as an invitation to lawsuits without good cause. Nursing home reform advocates, however, increasingly favor legal requirements that nursing homes allow cameras.

Some states have passed legislation preventing nursing homes from blocking the use of cameras, although Maryland is not yet one of them. Former Maryland Delegate Sue Hecht introduced such legislation several times beginning in 2001, after she witnessed her mother, Vera, suffering abuse at the hands of nursing home staff. Several bills titled “Vera’s Law” did not make it out of their committees, but a bill passed in 2003, also titled “Vera’s Law,” that required the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to develop guidelines that do opt to allow use of electronic monitoring devices with the consent of the patient or the patient’s guardian. The Department issued its guidelines on December 1, 2003, and those guidelines remain in effect today.

The movement to pass legislation requiring nursing homes to allow use of electronic monitoring by consenting patients is likely to keep gaining momentum. This will continue to be an area where the need to protect nursing home patients from abuse and neglect must be balanced with the need to protect patients’ privacy. Granny cams nonetheless have shown themselves to be a powerful deterrent to those who might subject nursing home patients to abuse, and they are an excellent tool for discovering abuse that might have gone unnoticed otherwise.

If you or a loved one has been the victim of abuse or neglect by nursing home staff, the Maryland nursing home abuse lawyers at Lebowitz & Mzhen can offer you aggressive and diligent representation to protect your rights and recover your damages. Contact us today for a free and confidential consultation.

Web Resources:

Guidelines for Electronic Monitoring (PDF), Office of Health Care Quality, Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, December 1, 2003
“Big Brother” and Grandma: an Argument for Video Surveillance in Nursing Homes (PDF), Selket Nicole Cottle, The Elder Law Journal, June 2004
Legislative Stasis: The Failures of Legislation and Legislative Proposals Permitting the Use of Electronic Monitoring Devices in Nursing Homes (PDF), Bradley J.B. Toben, Matthew C. Cordon, Baylor Law Review, August 2010

More Blog Posts:

Family Installs “Granny Cam” to Catch Nursing Home Abuse—Sues for Wrongful Death, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, July 7, 2011
“Granny Cam” Footage Documents Nursing Home Abuse of Alzheimer Resident, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, June 28, 2011
Nanny Cam Catches Nursing Home Abuse—Dementia Patient Forced to Stand Topless, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, April 8, 2011
The Importance of Reporting Nursing Home and Elder Abuse, Maryland Nursing Home Lawyer Blog, April 2, 2011

Contact Information