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Weighing in on 'granny cams'

November 3, 2014
by Kathleen Mears
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I have read many articles about a relative installing a "granny cam" to monitor a loved one in a nursing home. These cameras are not legal in all states. A couple of states’ attorneys general, however, have used them to record in resident rooms where abuse and neglect were suspected. Ohio's Attorney General Mike DeWine found enough evidence on granny cam videos to close one nursing home in 2013.

But are these cameras a good idea? First of all, they invade the resident's privacy. Then, they invade his or her roommate's privacy. They also invade the privacy of staff, visitors and any other residents who come into that room. Many family members, however, feel it necessary to install them. They notice items disappearing from their loved one's room. When the nursing home has not been able to figure out where these possessions have gone, some family members have installed granny cams to catch the thief. But some relatives saw video of their loved one being abused by staff instead of finding a thief.

When the abuse was unexpected, the families were devastated. Even with frequent visits, it is difficult to know what is going on with a nursing home resident. Visitors should be able to tell a resident's status by their appearance. But some people are not as savvy as others. Some can turn a blind eye to many things. Most people who put a relative in a nursing home feel guilty. Even though it may be the best environment for many residents, it may not be what a particular resident wants.

I think installing granny cams show lack of trust with management. In the best of all possible worlds, we would not have to put in a surveillance camera to know what type of care mom or grandma is getting. Caring for people with disabilities and dementia is difficult work. Many caregivers are wonderful at it, but some are not.

Granny cams are not a simple solution. Most cameras have SD cards that have to be removed, downloaded to a computer and viewed. Motion-activated cameras get short and long videos and reviewing them is time consuming. If a relative is doing this surreptitiously, the SD card must be installed and removed quickly when staff is not around.

Some nursing homes might be willing to let family members install granny cams to keep an eye on a loved one's care. But I think most would not like the idea. Some staff may feel comfortable being videotaped. While I am sure others would not want to be recorded.

When I came to this facility, I saw signs telling me I was being videotaped. The cameras are visible in the hallways, dining rooms and common areas. Of course, they are not in the resident rooms. Since I have been here, I have become used to being videotaped 24/7.


Kathleen Mears

Kathleen Mears has been a nursing home resident in Ohio for 20 years. She is an incomplete...