July 29, 2004
Video Cameras Spreading In Nursing Homes To Prevent Abuse

Called "granny-cams", the use of video cameras placed in the rooms of elderly nursing home residences is being funded in many cases by families so that families can verify that their elderly are not being abused or neglected by nursing home workers.

About a dozen state legislatures have granny-cam legislation under consideration. Earlier this year, New Mexico joined Texas in allowing nursing home residents or their representatives to install monitoring cameras in their rooms.

Under the laws, a resident must let nursing-home operators know ahead of time of the placement of the camera. If the operator is not notified or if the equipment is not open and obvious in the room, the camera is considered covert surveillance and illegal.

Use of such cameras is a positive step in reducing the potential for elderly abuse, Cottle, an editor at the journal, concluded. In particular, Web cameras hold the greatest potential for restoring public confidence in nursing homes by giving family members access to "real time" or to recently stored footage.

Commercial outlets now sell Web-camera systems to the elderly at prices from $629 to $1,584, depending on the specifications of each camera, plus a $20 monthly fee to access the server and $10 a month for a data-only line to upload images.

"Certainly some families have the financial means to provide this quality of technological protection, however the majority of Americans do not," Cottle wrote. To be effective and properly regulated, granny-cam technology should therefore be mandated for all nursing facilities.

In some cases family members are able to monitor their parents and grandparents by watching camera video streams remotely over the internet.

Cameras also could monitor many of the basics of resident care, such as drug administration and diaper changing. By linking the camera feed to the Internet, nursing homes could handle routine assignments more efficiently.

But because of understandable concerns over privacy, Cottle advocates placing the surveillance systems in the hands of independent companies, which would then monitor the equipment and be responsible for making the data available online.

"In this way, families can check on their loved ones and nursing homes can check on their residents, and everyone will sleep a little better at night knowing that the independent source is regulating and reviewing the tapes should any problems arise," Cottle wrote.

Many people are willing to give up privacy in exchange for security. Effectively the cameras provide a way for more trusted people to monitor the actions of less trusted people. The monitoring capability provided by electronic technology allows the role of trusted agent to be separated from the role of service provider. The cameras are monitored either by family members or by third party organizations. These organizations effectively serve to audit and monitor performance of nursing homes on behalf of family members or even on behalf of the elderly themselves.

Another way to think about video cameras used in security is that they allow a trusted agent to leverage their trust to enforce and monitor more transactions and facilities. This ability to separate out the role of trusted agent from the roles of providing various other services is a big underappreciated long term trend that is changing how societies are organized. It is going to affect the structure of governments in part by allowing outsourcing of various components of governance. For example, one can imagine how this could lead to situations where particularly corrupt governments agree to remote monitoring of a large range of transactions and faciltiies in exchange for international aid. A country like Finland with an incredibly low level of corruption could literally provide remote trust services for institutions in countries with high levels of corruption such as Moldova or Paraguay.

Share |      Randall Parker, 2004 July 29 02:50 PM  Surveillance Cameras

Mike Hoon said at February 11, 2005 4:14 PM:

I am the Executive Director of a not for profit nursing home in Washington State. We installed cameras in all common areas of the facility several years ago. Then, the State surveyor forced us to turn them off and issued us a level D citation.

We have legislative support to run a bill to help us.

Any suggestions?

Any legislation in other areas we should look at?

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