Surveillance cameras in nursing home rooms

In many cases, nursing home neglect and abuse takes place behind closed doors and without corroborating witnesses. Some states have laws allowing surveillance cameras in residents' rooms to prevent this. In Ohio and other states, however, there may be legal issues with utilizing these cameras.

These cameras can reveal information about the care provided to residents and how they are treated by other residents, visitors and nursing home staff. Cameras may show poor care, neglect and any abusive or aggressive acts.

Federal regulations grant rights to residents and prohibit this abuse and neglect. But, these regulations also give privacy rights to residents while they are in their rooms, receiving personal care and during visits.

Surveillance devices could violate these regulations by recording residents and any roommates when they are in their room getting dressed, during visits with family members and friends, and even during confidential conversations with medical professionals. Cameras that record audio may be even more intrusive.

Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Washington enacted laws allowing the installation of cameras in residents' rooms if the resident and roommate consent. These laws also contain standards on consent, who needs to be notified, assumption of costs, access and penalties for interfering or tampering with the devices.

Maryland issued guidelines for their use in residents' rooms. The New Jersey Office of Attorney General will provide cameras to relatives who want to monitor their family member's care.

Ohio does not have a law governing these surveillance devices. Accordingly, this issue should be carefully considered by residents and their relatives. Cameras could violate privacy and wiretapping laws in some circumstances.

Other issues include obtaining consent from roommates, whether the device should record audio, notification of nursing home staff and administration, and whether the camera should be turned off during dressing, visits or medical consultations. Costs and how the information is stored and used are other considerations.

Abuse or neglect can occur throughout the residence. Family members and friends should always play an active role in selecting and monitoring nursing homes and look for any signs of abuse or neglect.

An attorney can help residents and family members determine whether the installation of these devices is legal and feasible. They can also help assure that a resident's right to a reasonable standard of care are protected.

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