Eldercare advocate Trish Emig notes that video cameras wouldn't be necessary in nursing homes if the right kind of people were hired to care for residents and if facility directors were competent and effective. Yet while most employees and directors are capable, some aren't.
Placing cameras in nursing homes would help those facilities, and law enforcement, root out bad actors. Most importantly, cameras would protect assailable residents from harm.
Like Texas, Oklahoma lawmakers should pass a measure that protects its weakest and most vulnerable citizens by having mandatory video surveillance in the state's 310 nursing homes with approximately 21,600 residents. The Oklahoma Silver Haired Legislature recently named mandatory video monitoring as its top priority; the measure will go to the 2013 Legislature for consideration.
Video monitors, proponents say, could protect residents from possible abuse, assaults, theft and rape, gauge the quality of day-to-day patient care, and if placed properly even provide faraway family members and friends with virtual visitations.
Oklahoma lawmakers will have to make tough decisions on this issue. Silver Haired Legislature members said many vulnerable nursing home residents have been physically and sexually assaulted over the years by unknown assailants; cameras could provide valuable evidence when needed, and deter such crimes. Incidents in nursing homes are often not easily resolved because senior residents may not be able to communicate what happened. This type of technology, already used for day care centers and even pet store monitoring, would therefore be a good thing for vulnerable seniors.
The state AARP supports video monitoring, noting that Texas passed a law in 2001 that protects the rights of nursing home residents to request electronic monitoring devices. Texas added assisted living residences to the statute in 2003. Oklahoma has 123 assisted living centers.
Some contend that making cameras mandatory would require nursing home managers to spend money on video monitoring that could be more effectively spent to provide better wages, benefits and training for nursing home workers. Then, long-term-care providers wouldn't have to worry as much about cameras, said Mary Brinkley, executive director of the Oklahoma Association of Homes and Services for the Aging.
Rebecca A. Moore, head of the state nursing home association, stresses that protecting the privacy of patients always must be highly considered since a great deal of intimate care takes places at the patient's bedside.
Where to place video cameras is debated. Some suggest common areas such as hallways, meal areas, activity areas, even kitchen areas. Others say there should be surveillance cameras on the outside doors going into and exiting shower rooms. Questions also remain concerning who should pay for surveillance; who would operate the video cameras; along with who would monitor the video; who would report problems; and who would have access to the video tapes.
Texas lawmakers found a way to protect their weakest and most vulnerable citizens. Oklahoma lawmakers should do the same.
Killackey is a member of the Oklahoma Council on Aging.