Nursing Home Cameras and Elder Abuse Prevention

video_surveillance_lawsMany Californians have loved ones in nursing homes or assisted-living facilities. While we want to put our trust in these facilities and to believe that they are treating our elderly parents and relatives properly, many of us worry about the risks of nursing home abuse and neglect. According to a recent article from NBC San Diego, local families want to install cameras in patient bedrooms, “but they are facing a roadblock from the state.”

Documenting Elder Neglect in Southern California

Why wouldn’t the state want to use video cameras in patient rooms to monitor for elder abuse or neglect? According to Joe Balbas, the co-owner of Vista Gardens, “elderly patients in nursing facilities should have the option of having security cameras in their room[s].” Vista Gardens is a residential facility for patients with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Balbas believes that installing cameras in rooms—at the request of patients and their families—could help to prevent serious injuries.

What’s the holdup, then? Under current California law, nursing homes and other assisted-living facilities can only use cameras to “monitor residents in common areas, such as hallways or dining facilities.” Vista Gardens already uses cameras in these areas of the facility, but residents’ families don’t believe they’re sufficient. Balbas thinks that the California Department of Social Services is preventing lawmakers from “giving the green light” to in-room cameras. As Balbas explains, “although [the Department of Social Services] is supposedly going to be working with us, it’s been promises that eventually we will get to it. I know they are busy. We are all busy. This is an important issue.”

But, there’s not time to wait. Does the Department of Social Services simply have a backlog of issues with which it must contend and the issue of in-room cameras is in line for attention, or do some administrators have other concerns? According to Michael Weston, the Deputy Director of Public Affairs at the Department of Social Services, “the client’s right to privacy is a concern for the department.” As Weston pointed out, “we view these as people’s homes, and we want people to have rights in their own home and balancing that between a business and a residence.”

The department has developed certain guidelines that “would allow video cameras in private rooms under specific conditions.” However, these guidelines remain in the proposal stage. Some former employees at the department believe in-room cameras should be optional, particularly when families have concerns about elder abuse and neglect.

“Cameras Don’t Lie:” Objective Evidence of Abuse

Why are California families pushing for in-room cameras? Let’s take a look at one specific case, reported in the NBC San Diego report. In October of 2013, Kathe Murphy, a retired paralegal for the Department of Social Services, put her mother in a retirement community that provided care. However, Murphy soon realized that her mother was suffering from elder neglect.

To be sure, Murphy documented “her mother’s dirty clothes, room, and bathroom” with photographs. She insisted the the facility wasn’t taking proper care of her mother, and that the facility was neglecting its duties. By spring of 2014, Murphy learned that her mother had been “put in bed and not checked on for almost 24 hours.” As a result, Murphy found her “laying there with a dirty diaper with sores on her back for almost 12 hours.” Murphy’s mother died just three weeks later.

If Murphy had been allowed to have an in-room camera in her mother’s room, she might have learned about the neglect much earlier. Indeed, the camera might have been a valuable tool in preventing her mother’s injuries.

Do you have concerns about your elderly loved one’s safety? If you suspect that someone you love has been the victim of nursing home abuse, you should contact an experienced San Diego elder law attorney as soon as possible.

See Related Blog Posts:

New Jobs in Department of Public Health Aim at Preventing Elder Neglect

California Facilities Fined for Resident Deaths