Recently, shocking video footage was captured at a South Florida nursing home showing a certified nursing assistant striking a resident, pouring mouthwash on him, pushing him and handling him very roughly. The resident was ninety four years old and suffered from dementia. The CNA involved claimed she knew nothing of the allegations – until the video surfaced. Apparently, the resident’s family members were suspicious that he was being mistreated and hid the camera in his room. Without the camera footage, the abuse would probably never have been proven.
It is common that family members of nursing home residents call us to express a concern that a resident is being abused or mistreated. Without obvious signs of injury, abuse can be very hard to prove as some residents with dementia may be confused to the point of equating normal movement required for bathing and dressing as abuse. With advances in technology, it is now economically possible for most people to purchase small video cameras that can be concealed in a room. Consequently, we have seen a rise in hidden surveillance footage and it is certainly going to continue to increase.
Of course, the use of hidden surveillance cameras also raises ethical concerns. While a resident certainly has the ability to use such a camera, when the camera is placed by a family member, what if the resident lacks the mental capacity to consent to being filmed? Nothing in standard power of attorney or health care surrogacy documents addresses this issue. We support the ethical use of surveillance cameras as one of many tools that can be used in an effort to ensure a resident is receiving safe and respectful care.
Some states have enacted legislation specifically allowing nursing home residents to install cameras, which means that a nursing home cannot remove, or refuse to admit, a resident on this basis. Most states; however, have no laws addressing the issue. Florida does not have such a law. A nursing home industry group, the American Health Care Association, has fought legislation allowing for cameras as it claims that people placing the cameras are more interested in gathering evidence for a lawsuit than in protecting the resident. They also claim that, with cameras in place, it will be more difficult to hire and keep qualified caregivers.
Our Jacksonville law firm focuses on nursing home neglect and abuse cases. If you suspect nursing home abuse, we provide free no obligation consultations. Often, we help guide family members dealing with the issue of whether to leave a resident in his or her current nursing home. We frequently recommend that the family request a care plan meeting to be attended by the resident’s doctor, the nursing home’s director of nursing and the resident’s nurse unit manager. When abuse, neglect or mistreatment is more certain, we recommend the resident be moved to a nursing home with strong ratings and we recommend the resident or the resident’s family members contact Florida’s Department of Children and Families abuse hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE. Nursing home ratings are published by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and can be found here.