Cameras urged for surveillance in nursing homes
By Jim Killackey
The Daily Oklahoman

Violette King says video surveillance cameras commonly
used in banks, convenience stores and day-care centers belong in yet
another place to ensure safety and guard against wrongdoing -- nursing home
rooms. "I can't comprehend that people are sleeping well at night if
they have a loved one in a nursing home," said King, a featured speaker
Thursday at a state Capitol rally to promote a new nursing home reform group, "A
Perfect Cause." King, president of the Illinois-based nonprofit Nursing Home
Monitors, has crisscrossed the country since 1994 to champion
cameras -- "granny-cams" -- as powerful deterrents to abuse and neglect. "The vast
majority of nursing home employees are dedicated, hard-working individuals
who want their residents to be safe and to receive good care," King
said in an interview. "But all too often, criminals and deviants are drawn
to nursing home work because jobs are easy to get and because there is
little supervision." King, 57, is a former medical laboratory supervisor who
completed certified nurse's aide training to become more familiar with the
industry after the death of her father in an Illinois nursing home. Many abusers
of the elderly have no criminal history, and some of the abusers are other
residents, she said. King also said that cameras safeguard nursing home
employees who may be injured by combative residents. King said cameras offer many
advantages for nursing home operators: a drop in theft rates, a drop in insurance
rates, higher occupancy rates, larger profits, increased productivity and
pride among employees, lower employee turnover, and peace of mind for
families. Historically, though, nursing home owners have opposed surveillance
systems because of privacy issues, she said.

King encourages families to
buy cameras and install them along with video recorders in the rooms of their
loved ones. She said the camera should be motion-activated, should be
pointed directly at the bed of the resident and should keep the roommate out of
view. The camera should be connected to a VCR with enough tape to record three
to four days of activity. The video recorder should be in a lock box,
she said. King said the practice is legal and is supported by the American
Civil Liberties Union, which agrees that a nursing home resident has the
right to monitor his or her care.

The Nursing Home Association of Oklahoma doesn't
have an official position on surveillance cameras. But association
past-President Denver McCormick said Thursday, "I really don't see a use for
them ... although it would be up to the individual and the family. "I'd
hate to see that as nursing home requirement or a state law," said
McCormick, of Oklahoma City. Requiring surveillance cameras, McCormick said, almost
certainly would drive up nursing home liability insurance costs and, in
turn, patient charges. McCormick said he worries about privacy and
confidentiality issues involving the nursing home resident and the resident's roommate.
"If a family came to me and stated the reasons why they wanted a camera, if
they were concerned about safety ... I wouldn't keep them from having
one," he said.

Bill Fogleman, chief nursing home complaint investigator
for the state Department of Human Services, said surveillance cameras are an
excellent way to uncover reasons behind unexplained injuries and illnesses
involving nursing home residents. "The devices will give nursing home staff
members more incentives to do a good job because they know they are beings
videotaped. And privacy isn't an issue if the family and resident are in
agreement on using a video camera," Fogleman said. At Thursday's 90-minute "A
Perfect Cause" rally, about 50 supporters of nursing home reformer Wes
Bledsoe called for changes in the state nursing home industry to overturn a "sad
state of affairs." Bledsoe, whose grandmother died last year in what he
believes were abusive conditions at a south Oklahoma City nursing home, read
a letter from U.S. Rep. Brad Carson, D-Claremore. Carson recommended
better-trained nursing home staffs, increased funding to hire additional staff
members, stricter compliance with federal nursing home regulations and
"better consumer knowledge of abuses ... to end the crisis in
Oklahoma's nursing homes."