California Joins Handful of States in Approval of Security Cameras in Resident Rooms by Colleen Beard
On Friday, the California Department of Social Services approved in-room security cameras for residents in assisted living and other residential care facilities. (It is my understanding that this does not apply to all long-term residential care facilities.) California is not the first state to approve these cameras - not to be mistaken with the "nanny", or now what some are referring to as the "grannycams".
I spoke at length to Joe Balbas, c0-owner of Vista Gardens in CA and advocate for this issue, yesterday. When I initially watched this news video and read the article, I had many questions. He answered all of them, and I want to share with you what I learned from our conversation.
1. Vista Gardens is a memory care assisted living facility. This means that many residents have Alzheimer's Disease or dementia and might be vulnerable and unable to report abuse or neglect (should it ever unfortunately occur).
2. Mr. Balbas said these cameras allow families to request video footage - should they ever suspect something is wrong (i.e. discover a bruise on their loved one that cannot be explained, or if their loved one is unusually withdrawn, depressed or agitated).
3. Cameras in rooms do not have to be turned on. All residents/families have the OPTION, and in order for the camera to be turned on, the resident/family has to authorize this. If the resident is unable to advocate for themselves, then the family will make the decision for them.
4. Cameras can be turned off with 72-hour notice,
5. Cameras are motion-activated.
6. No one is "sitting around watching the camera footage" because there is no TV screen with live video to be watched by staff. These cameras are not the "nannycams" (or "grannycams" as some are calling them) that enable people to watch constant video.
7. Video footage is recorded and stored on a hard drive - it has to be pulled to be watched. It does not live online or in a cloud.
8. In Vista Gardens case, three people (management only) have access to the video recordings.
Opponents to cameras in residents' rooms say: this will discourage people from wanting to work at these facilities; these facilities are opening themselves to law suits; and that its a violation of resident privacy. Mr. Balbas thinks that facilities and others in the long-term care industry that are against the cameras have something to hide.
What I do know is that: abuse is occurring nationwide in long-term care facilities. It's a reality that no one can argue. And families might suspect something, but without proof, it can be very challenging to prove anything. While abuse can occur in the common areas of facilities, human behavior dictates that it is much more likely to occur when someone believes they are not being watched and/or while performing duties that require extra effort and patience ( i.e. personal care).
More states are looking into allowing cameras, and I believe it will be the norm of long-term care in this country eventually. Families are demanding more accountability of care providers and assurance that their loved one is safe. Of course these cameras cannot protect a resident in those terrible moments, should abuse occur. But they certainly can ensure that abusive employees are not able to hurt others in the future - if caught on tape.
This is a hotly-debated issue, and I am curious to know what you think. I do find it interesting that all the families at Vista Gardens have agreed to the cameras.
I have included the article below for you to read that accompanied the news video.
Updated at 3:43 PM PDT on Wednesday, Aug 12, 2015
From police officer body cameras to nanny cams, we are seeing cameras used more and more as a way to help provide accountability.
Now they're an option in patient rooms at senior care homes.
Joe Balbas is co-owner of Vista Gardens, a local facility for Alzheimer's disease and dementia patients. He's been pushing for cameras, saying elderly patients in assisted living facilities should have the option of having security cameras in their room.
“This was based on safety,” he said.
Previously under California law, cameras were only used to monitor residents in common areas such as hallways or dining facilities. But on Friday, the department issued new guidelines allowing in-room cameras as long as the patient and their families agree to it.
Click here to see the new guidelines.
“What they (the Department of Social Services) have done for these families in California is unbelievable,” Balbas said. “They have provided another layer of protection for the loved ones.”
Balbas has been trying to get in-room cameras approved by the Department of Social Services for nearly five years. Click here to watch NBC 7 Investigates' original story.
The process took time because, as a spokesperson for the Department previously told NBC 7 Investigates, there were privacy concerns.
Now, before in-room cameras can be used, each family has to sign a waiver, which then has to be approved by the state's Community Care Licensing Division.
“We've been assured they are going to process these as soon as they can,” said Balbas. His facility is currently home to 60 patients, and each one of their families have already agreed to turning the cameras on, he said. Once the paperwork is approved, he said he hopes to get the cameras up and running in just a few weeks.
My name is Colleen Beard and I am the founder of CareSpotlight.com -CareSpotlight is a startup company working on launching a national directory of care and service providers for seniors and individuals of all ages living with disabilities, illness and serious injuries. Users will be able to post and read reviews, connect with others and access additional resources and information. We also offer local patient advocacy services in Northeast Ohio.