Granny Cams Spread in Popularity to Catch Elder Abuse 

Jean Peters installed a granny cam in her 85-year-old mother’s bedroom. She then watched as her mother was ridiculed by a nursing aide at York Gardens, a senior home in Edina, MN. The aide in the video can be seen repeatedly harassing the women calling her a “grown-a** adult” and tugging violently on her clothes.[1]

This story, reported by the StarTribune, details shocking treatment of residents by nursing home staff.  Since the incident two years ago, Peters and her sister, Kay Bromelkamp, have been strong advocates of using these “granny-cams” to catch elder abuse in nursing homes. The cameras can cost as little as $80 and can fit inside of a teddy bear or potted plant. These cameras have begun surging in popularity despite privacy concerns and calls for more regulations in the industry.

Two Twin Cities Staff Members Arrested for Elder Abuse

Elder abuse caught on these mini-cameras recently lead to arrests and criminal charges for staff at two Twin Cities-area nursing homes. In a recent case, an aide is seen striking an elderly patient on the head with an elbow and a hair brush. Additionally, months earlier, an employee was caught on tape throwing a towel at the face of a bedridden patient with dementia. The cameras also caught multiple instances of staff speaking on their cell phones when they were supposed to be caring for patients.

Despite their ability to protect the elderly from abuse, more than half of a dozen states have established rules governing electronic surveillance in senior homes. Advocates of the cameras believe that staff knowing that there is a possibility they are on camera might deter elder abuse.

Privacy Concerns for Whom?

Although granny cams do raise privacy concerns, it would seem that the interest in protecting the elderly outweighs the right to privacy in the workplace of the nursing home’s staff.  In essence, if the residents don’t object to a camera in their own room, we believe that it should not matter whether the staff object.  In fact, residents will be much better off if staff instead expect there to be a camera watching them while they work, much like many companies that record the business calls of their employees “for training purposes.”

States with laws regulating and prohibiting miniature cameras in nursing homes need to eliminate these laws.  Individuals with loved ones in nursing homes should consider researching their state’s laws regarding miniature recording devices and consider installing a camera to monitor their family member’s safety.

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