"Granny cams" on the rise in nursing homes

Having an older and perhaps incapacitated family member who requires long-term care is not an easy situation. There are emotional, financial and medical questions that Pennsylvania relatives who act as caregivers must consider. And, these questions are only made more complicated when nursing homes are involved, especially where there is suspicion of nursing home neglect of the older, ailing individual in need of care.

To examine suspicion and allegations of nursing home abuse and neglect, several family members throughout the country are taking the situation into their own hands. They have resorted to placing hidden cameras -- referred to as "granny cams" -- in the rooms of their loved ones, who reside at long-term care facilities like nursing homes, in order to monitor the treatment of these family members. And in fact, in Pennsylvania some relatives have actually captured scenes of abuse on different sorts of hidden cameras. While the cameras have confirmed abuse in some cases, their placement and use has come with significant debate.

Those in favor of the cameras argue that they must protect their relatives in such facilities, particularly when no one else is looking out for them or being forthcoming about possible mistreatment. Others are wary about the use of cameras, noting that there are significant privacy concerns for the relatives as well as employees and other individuals residing in the long-term care facilities.

While there is clearly a heated debate about the appropriateness of using hidden cameras, there is obviously no doubt that the cameras help establish a key element of nursing home abuse cases under Pennsylvania law. Anyone bringing a claim against a nursing home must demonstrate the relative's losses. Damage includes a host of considerations, including: physical injuries, mental anguish and loss of the enjoyment of life. Hidden cameras help capture and prove the damage, increasing the likelihood of success of a legal claim.

Caring for a relative is difficult. Ultimately, the goal is securing the well-being of the family member in need. Hidden cameras may help this end goal. But, determining whether or not using such a camera is appropriate in a given case is an initial obstacle.

Source: nytimes.com, "Watchful Eye in Nursing Homes," Jan Hoffman, Nov. 18, 2013

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