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One of the fastest-growing trends in eldercare is the installation of what is known as “Granny Cams,” which are video monitors set up in facilities that allow family members to check on loved ones remotely.

Several states, including Illinois, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas have recently enacted laws that mandate that senior communities must grant resident requests to install Granny Cams. California is what is known as a “Two-Party Consent” state which means that facilities must grant permission and will only allow in a private room

I recently had a client who had a Granny Cam installed in an assisted living facility, for which she got full permission, and the camera location was open and obvious in her grandmother’s room so the staff was fully aware that a camera was in the room and that they were being recorded.

She regularly noticed that when she came to visit her grandmother at the facility, the cord to the camera was unplugged. She asked the management why the camera was being disabled and they said, “The staff keeps unplugging it.”

When such events occur, that alone should be cause for alarm. Why would anyone want to unplug a Granny Cam if they are providing excellent care? If anything, wouldn’t they want the family to know how well the resident was being treated?

Unfortunately for my client, her grandmother died under what he considered to be unusual circumstances. Autopsies of elderly patients who die in facilities are seldom done – the cause of death is almost always “natural causes,” so autopsies are considered an unnecessary expense.

In this case, my client paid for a private autopsy, and what it found was shocking. Her grandmother’s toxicology report showed that she was given several medications by staff that was not prescribed to her, like hydromorphone, which is a powerful opioid used to treat severe pain. The staff at the nursing facility were sedating her to make her more compliant. The combination of the prescription drugs she was taking, along withother drugs she was secretly given by staff, resulted in depressing her central nervous system and killing her.

As if that weren’t bad enough, a review of the Granny Cam videos showed that one of her caregivers violently shook her grandmother in order to position her in a wheelchair. The entire shaking incident lasted only a few seconds, but it was a clear case of abuse.

No resident or patient in a nursing home or care facility should ever be subject to rough handling, over-medication, or any other form of neglect or abuse.  Unfortunately,  such things do happen. In order to make caregivers accountable and be held responsible, I recommend the use of Granny Cams. If the power gets mysteriously cut, or if staff go to lengths to avoid being recorded, those are tell-tale signs of problems.

Some people claim that Granny Cams do more harm than good. One published report in the Elder Law Journal says, “…they also introduce the possibility for surveillance to proliferate, to compromise people’s dignity and to compromise the privacy of others.”

According to otherpublished research, the most likely abusers of elderly people are their own relatives, so the cameras would be disabled when actual abuse is being done.

I agree that we must be mindful of privacy, but it also needs to be balanced with safety.  That is why I advocate putting a granny cam in your family member’s room because it allows you to respect the privacy of other residents while allowing you to monitor how your loved one is being cared for.  I also believe that verifying and holding staff accountable is positive, and perhaps a deterrent for abuse.

My hope is that California will follow other states in requiring facilities to install Granny Cams whenever a family requests. The simple act of recording can be a deterrent, allow for accountability and responsibility when something bad occurs. As far back as 2003, The Fordham Urban Law Journal noted that video cameras in nursing homes may help to eliminate abuse.

In my experience, Granny Cams are an inexpensive insurance policy families can give to their loved ones.

If you have concerns about a loved one in a care facility, please give us a call at York Law Firm (916) 643-2200.