Should Video Surveillance Be Used in a Care Home?

There has been increasing investigations, reports, arrests, lawsuits and indictments about incidents of neglect and abuse in various care homes. Most of these cases have been exposed through hidden surveillance cameras in the homes. Due to these revelations, the family members, legislators and other concerned parties have piled pressure for interventions, particularly video surveillance, to guarantee the security and safety of the residents. Video surveillance systems range from simple video cameras which use a videotape, to advanced web-based cameras which can be monitored online. However, the use of video surveillance systems has raised so much controversy with both proponents and opponents raising some strong points.

Should video surveillance be used in a care home?

Proponents claim that video surveillance will end neglect and abuse in care homes, thereby improving the quality of care for the residents. They argue that video monitoring systems will make employees to perform their duties properly without neglecting or abusing residents since they know they are being monitored. Moreover, there is a belief that monitoring will encourage care homes to make improvements. Surveillance systems can also prevent elopement since the staff would be monitoring the residents at all times.

On the other hand, proponents of video surveillance systems argue that the surveillance violates the privacy rights of both the residents and staff. There are questions, such as; who will have access to the video tapes?; if the system can be monitored through the internet, what measures are in place to address privacy concerns?; or can the resident turn off the system during private moments (such as dressing, bathing etc.)?. Until these questions are addressed, surveillance in care homes will always remain contentious.

Whatever the outcome of this controversy, video surveillance is something that will never go away. Therefore, care homes without these systems should consider installing cameras in their facilities, whether for security and safety or for monitoring staff and residents. But this does not mean that contentious issues around the system should be overlooked. Nursing homes should be aware of all the issues before installing these systems.

First, the privacy of the facility residents should be protected. The facility should come up with a system where the consent of the residents or family members are sought first before using surveillance systems in rooms. For monitoring common areas, such as entry, dining areas, parking lot, corridors etc., there should be visible signage of cameras so that the residents know they are being monitored. Common areas exclude restrooms, shower areas, locker rooms and changing rooms.

Electronic surveillance systems are becoming more and more important in our daily lives. The technology is advancing faster and becoming more accessible to the general public. Camera systems are getting much smaller and easier to install and operate. If a care home does not embrace this technology and make the most out of it, they are basically trying to resist an idea whose time has come. In fact, some families may decide to install hidden cameras to monitor their loved ones without the knowledge and consent of the facility.

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