Would In-Room Cameras Stop Nursing Home Abuse?

Last December, a 29-year-old woman in a vegative state gave birth. The staff at the assisted living facility she had been living in since she was three years old didn’t even notice she was pregnant until they realized she was in labor. 

A nurse at the facility has was arrested and charged with sexual assault and vulnerable adult abuse, but many people with loved ones in assisted living facilities are not satisfied that this is a strong enough response. 

Patients rights advocates and families with loved ones in long-term care facilities are calling on states to adopt laws allowing patients and their families to install hidden cameras in their rooms so staff behavior can be monitored. The nursing home industry strongly objects to such schemes. 

Right now, Texas is one of ten states that has a law allowing video monitoring in some long-term care facilities. A 2013 law allows the state’s 13 intermediate care facilities, which serve nearly 3,000 patients with intellectual disabilities, to install and operate video surveillance equipment in common areas. Government officials say the cameras have both confirmed and cleared staff in allegations of abuse, neglect, or exploitation.

Whether this law should be expanded is up for debate. 

In some ways, in-room cameras would be like the dashboard cams that many Houston area drivers have installed in order to gather evidence in case of an auto accident. The footage often provides crucial evidence of fault, and can be used to identify hit and run drivers. It is there if you need it, but most of it goes unwatched. In-room cameras could work the same way. The patient or their family members could call up footage if they suspect something bad has happened. 

But having a camera in your car and being recorded in your home, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, is pretty different. There are obviously privacy concerns, which are amplified by the fact that some patients are not be able to communicate their preferences on the topic. 

As a personal injury firm that handles a fair number of nursing home abuse cases, this is an issue we will continue to monitor. We are zealous advocates for our clients, and we always want to present the best evidence possible to hold the people who harm them accountable, but the right to privacy is also something we value.