Law Article Supports Use of 'Granny Cams' in Nursing Homes

The benefits of Web cam surveillance in nursing homes far outweigh privacy concerns, according to a recent article in the Elder Law Journal, published by the University of Illinois College of Law.

The article's author, Selket Nicole Cottle, concludes that Web cameras hold greater potential for restoring public confidence in nursing homes than do other proposed solutions to elder abuse, such as mandatory background checks on nursing home workers.

Proponents of the cameras, dubbed ''granny cams,'' say their use in nursing homes could weed out abusive employees and document incidents of substandard care, while nursing home owners view such surveillance as an invasion of privacy that could actually decrease care by making it more difficult to attract and retain good staff.

Settle, a recent graduate of the University of Illinois College of Law, told Reuters Health: "My number one reason for advocating the use of the cameras is that the evidence shows that there is a high incidence of abuse against the elderly, and something has to be done about it."

An estimated one in 20 seniors in nursing homes experience some type of abuse, according to the Florida Agency of Health Care Administration, and this figure appears to understate the problem because many instances of physical and sexual abuse go unreported.

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.

But Cottle recommends that such cameras be available to all, not just the privileged few who can afford them. She says nursing homes should be instructed to install granny cams for all residents, but that residents should be free to choose whether or not to activate them.