Should Video Cameras Be Allowed in West Virginia Nursing Homes?
Whether an adult child should be allowed to install a video camera or other recording device in the room of his or her parent's nursing home room still remains an unsettled and fairly controversial question in West Virginia and throughout most of the country.
Currently, only five states have laws that expressly allow and regulate "electronic monitoring" in nursing homes. In 2015, Illinois became the newest member of that group, McKnight's reports.
Even though nursing home camera legislation was introduced in West Virginia as far back as 2001, the state currently features no law.
As a law firm that is dedicated to protecting the rights of nursing home abuse victims and their families in Charleston and throughout West Virginia, our law firm has long studied this issue.
We were particularly interested in the recently reported results from an ongoing survey that is being conducted by researchers at Brown University.
The goal of the survey is to measure the use of cameras in nursing homes around the country as well as to gauge views on the potential benefits and drawbacks of electronic monitoring.
How Prevalent Are Cameras in Nursing Homes?
As your parents age, you may be forced to make the decision to put them in a nursing home, particularly if you are no longer able to provide them with the level of medical care, treatment and attention they require. It can be an extremely difficult and heart-wrenching decision to make.
Although you may choose a facility that appears to be a safe and secure one, you may have lingering fears or doubts. While you may be able to visit your loved one frequently, the reality is that you cannot be with him or her in the nursing home at all times. When you are gone, is abuse or neglect occurring?
One thing is certain: Mistreatment of elderly residents in nursing homes has become a serious problem in West Virginia and across the nation - and it is a problem that will only grow as our population ages.
According to a report by The Pew Charitable Trusts, an estimated 1.5 million people currently live in the roughly 16,000 nursing homes which are located across the country.
In 2014, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Inspector General's office reported that 85 percent of nursing homes in the U.S. had reported at least one allegation of abuse or neglect, with about 60,000 of those allegations involving staff members, according to Pew.
The National Center on Elder Abuse (NCEA) reports that:
Concerns about abuse and neglect have led to greater interest in allowing nursing home residents, or their legal representative such as an adult child, to install a camera or other recording device in the resident's room.
In an article published by McKnight's in June, one of the researchers involved in the Brown survey shared what the survey had revealed about the use of such cameras in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities.
According to the article, out of the 228 long-term care facilities that responded to the survey:
- 25 percent allowed family members to install cameras
- 16 percent reported at least one camera in use.
As those stats indicate, most nursing homes still do not permit the cameras. And even among those who do allow them, few families take advantage of the policy.
Additionally, it is important to note that only half of the facilities that allowed cameras had a policy that required notice to others about the cameras, such as a sign warning staff members that their interactions with patients were being recorded.
What Are the Benefits and Drawbacks of In-Room Video Surveillance?
As part of the Brown survey, respondents have been allowed to submit comments about the pros and cons of allowing cameras to be installed in nursing home residents' rooms.
The most common response has focused on concerns that the cameras violate the privacy of residents and staff members alike and "could undermine resident's dignity, given the personal nature of care and likelihood of exposure," according to the article in McKnight's.
These concerns should not be taken lightly. Consider the fact that these cameras could be recording 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Residents could be watched while getting dressed and undressed, bathing and entertaining friends.
The other concerns expressed in the survey include:
- The cameras could impact trust in the relationships between residents and staff members, which is highly important in the nursing home setting.
- The cameras could put undue pressure on staff members, demoralize them and, ultimately, lead to them seeking employment elsewhere.
- The camera footage could be selectively edited, and interactions between residents and staff members could be taken out of context.
On the other hand, let's consider some of the potential benefits that respondents have voiced so far in the survey, including:
- The cameras could help with the investigation of allegations of abuse and neglect, providing strong evidence that it either occurred or did not occur.
- The cameras could ultimately deter misconduct such as abuse, neglect and theft of residents' personal belongings.
- The footage could be used to keep staff extra-vigilant and aid in training staff members.
Of course, another benefit would be the simple fact that cameras could give peace of mind to family members who are concerned about their loved ones and whether they are being treated with the respect, care and attention they deserve.
These are all important points to consider as we move forward in West Virginia and other parts of the country and seek ways to improve the quality of care that our loved ones receive in nursing homes and to prevent potentially devastating cases of abuse and neglect.
Contact Our Charleston Nursing Home Abuse and Neglect Lawyers
If you or a family member has suffered harm due to mistreatment in a nursing home in Charleston or elsewhere in West Virginia, please contact Mani Ellis & Layne, PLLC. We can discuss your legal rights and obligations in a free and confidential consultation.