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Are 'granny cams' an invasion of privacy?

People who place their spouse or parent in a nursing home often cannot come to visit for more than a few hours per week, if that. Worried about what goes on the rest of the time, many families have begun installing hidden cameras in their loved one’s room to videotape their interactions with nursing home staff.

Occasionally, the media report stories of abuse and neglect captured by so-called “granny cams.” However, the use of these devices raises important privacy questions, both for residents and employees.

Many nursing home residents with granny cams in their rooms are people who are unable to speak or communicate because of Alzheimer’s disease. This also means that they lack the ability to consent to being videotaped whenever they are in their room, which could mean they are being taped while being bathed and relieving themselves. There is also the possibility, however remote, that this sort of embarrassing footage will end up on the Internet.

The privacy rights of nursing home employees also deserve consideration, as does the fact that some methods of treating agitated residents may be misunderstood, according to an article in the Huffington Post. Interacting with a resident with Alzheimer’s disease can be difficult, and the patient may struggle or resist during ordinary interactions like bathing or changing of clothes. These incidents have the potential to be misinterpreted on grainy hidden camera footage.

This is not to suggest that granny cams sometimes help families prove that their loved one is being abused. But it may be better if all parties likely to be taped have the opportunity to consent first.

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