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 term video surveillance an invasion of privacy that could actually decrease care by making it more difficult to attract and retain good staff.
The controversy has its roots not only in the march of technology, but also in the surge of Americans who are entering nursing homes.
About half of Americans currently 65 or older will be admitted to a nursing home at least once, writes Selket Nicole Cottle in an article in the Elder Law Journal, which is published by the University of Illinois College of Law.
This tide is only expected to rise as baby boomers approach their golden years.
At the same time, about 30 percent of the nation's 17,000 nursing homes have been sanctioned for deficiencies that put their residents at risk of harm. About one in 20 nursing home residents suffer from 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.
Although no law expressly prohibits the use of cameras in nursing homes, there are various practical barriers to their widespread use, including the strong opposition of the nursing-home industry.
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
Contact: Mark Reutter, Business & Law Editor
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign