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“Granny cam” may expose elder abuse, but consult a lawyer before its use

Nine nursing assistants and eight nurses appeared in a New York court on April 25 to face charges in one of the largest nursing home neglect cases in recent memory. The 17 former nursing home employees allegedly ignored their duties and failed to meet the documented medical needs of a 56-year-old resident with a serious neurological disease. The neglect was captured on video by the New York Attorney General's Office as part of a month long investigation.

Use of so-called "granny cams" to expose instances of nursing home abuse and neglect has been on the rise in recent years. Utilizing hidden surveillance equipment has been a tactic not only in this latest case, but also in several previous investigations conducted by the New York Attorney General's Office. But if you have a loved one in a nursing home and you suspect abuse or neglect, should you turn to a granny cam? There are several considerations you should take into account before placing any kind of video equipment in your loved one's residential care facility.

There may be privacy issues with roommates, visitors and staff

One of the reasons elder abuse is such a pervasive problem is that it can be difficult to detect. Residents may be unable or unwilling to self-report abuse and neglect; it may seem like concealing a camera in an alarm clock, potted plant or elsewhere in your loved one's room might be a good way to check in on caregivers.

However, there are a number of privacy concerns at stake in making this kind of recording. Perhaps most obviously is the privacy of your loved one. Would he or she be comfortable having the minute details of daily life in a nursing home captured on video and reviewed by a relative? Many nursing home residents require assistance with intimate tasks that they may not wish to have recorded.

You also should think about the others who might be present in your loved one's room. Roommates could appear on your clandestine recordings; roommates may have the legal right to refuse to be filmed, and some jurisdictions even have requirements that granny cams be in fixed positions aimed only at the resident you are intending to monitor. Guests, visitors and, obviously, employees could also be filmed.

Talk to a lawyer before using a granny cam

There can be many signs of nursing home abuse or neglect. Bedsores, falls, complaints from your loved one, any number of things can tip you off that something might not be right in a care facility.

It can be tempting to use a hidden camera to confirm or allay your fears, but before doing so, you should consult an experienced nursing home abuse lawyer. Your lawyer can help you gather evidence in the right ways and ensure that you do not break any laws yourself in trying to protect your loved one. Furthermore, if there has in fact been abuse or neglect, your lawyer can help you recover financial compensation from the responsible parties. Talk to an experienced New York nursing home abuse attorney today if you think caregivers might be harming your loved one.