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States Debate “Granny Cams” Catching Nursing Home Abuse

November 19, 2013 — There is a growing trend of nursing home abuse caught on tape by family members who placed hidden surveillance cameras in the room of a long-term care resident. The states of Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico have passed laws explicitly allowing the so-called “granny cams,” and many other states are debating similar laws.

Family members often use the cameras as a last-resort effort after complaints about abuse or theft went unheeded by staff members.

The New York Times cited the case of Eryetha Mayberry, a 96 year-old woman with dementia. Her daughter placed a camera in Mayberry’s room, suspecting that workers were stealing things from her mother. Instead, two months later, she saw images of shocking cruelty and neglect:

“An aide 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.”

Hidden surveillance cameras have also been used by some states. Mike DeWine, the attorney general in Ohio, placed cameras in several nursing homes with permission from the management. Abuse was documented at one facility that is now being shut down.

The use of cameras is not without controversy, however. Privacy advocates question the ethics of surveilling a long-term care resident who is unable to provide consent. Roommates of residents who are under surveillance have a legal right not to be monitored. Unions representing healthcare workers are also concerned about the cameras, especially when families do not provide notification.

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