Are Hidden Cameras The Best Way To Fight Elder Abuse?

In today’s blog post we will take a look at the use of hidden spy cameras as a crime fighting tool in nursing homes to catch elder abuse. It may be the only way to detect and prove it.

About Hidden Spy Cameras

Spy cameras, a.k.a. hidden cameras, have been around since 1936 when Baltic German Walter Zapp invented and produced a subminiature camera. World War II interrupted production of the forerunner of today’s modern spy camera several times. Back then they were considered luxury items for Nazi leaders as well as tools for their spies.

Compared to today’s models the old ones were bulky and inefficient as well as being expensive. Today’s modern spy cameras are relatively inexpensive and affordable to everyone.

In the last nearly 80 years, hidden spy cameras have made tremendous transition to the point now where they are sophisticated tools consisting of a pinhole spy camera with a self-recording DVR included in many that can record color video (some can even record audio) on a motion activated basis. There are literally hundreds of models from several different manufacturers. The most common models are wall clocks and ordinary household appliances such as clock radios, air purifiers, tower fans and even wall plugs and electrical outlets.

Many of them have the capability of transmitting images to a smart phone so you can monitor what is going on in your home from anywhere in the world.

Facts About Elder Abuse

According to the CDC “Elder abuse is a significant public health problem. Each year, hundreds of thousands of adults over the age of 60 are abused, neglected, or financially exploited. In the United States alone, more than 500,000 older adults are believed to be abused or neglected each year.” And these figures may be just the tip of the iceberg because many patients in nursing homes are afraid to talk, or can’t remember what happened. More about that later.

The CDC identifies these six types of maltreatment that occur among persons over the age of 60:

  1. Physical abuse-the most common
  2. Sexual abuse
  3. Emotional abuse
  4. Neglect
  5. Abandonment
  6. Financial abuse-mostly done by family members.

This shocking video shows Elder Abuse and raises some serious questions. WARNING: It may be disturbing to some.

How Big A Problem Is It?

Baby boomers are reaching retirement age of 65 at the rate of one every 10 seconds. Seniors over the age of 65 will soon become the biggest portion of the population. As America continues to age, social programs struggle to keep up, and nursing homes and long-term care facilities are good examples. Not only is there a shortage of beds for the patients, but also a shortage of qualified staff to care for them.

This leads to shortcuts in hiring practices which inevitably denigrates the quality of care. This in part has led to a boom in home healthcare, however, they are suffering from the same dilemma-where to find qualified employees.

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the National Center on Elder Abuse(NCEA) shows that the 2010 census recorded the greatest number and proportion of people age 65 and older-13% of the population, and that by 2050 people age 65 and older are expected to comprise 20% of the population.

They define elder abuse “as intentional actions to cause harm or create a serious risk of harm to a vulnerable elder by a caregiver or other person who stands in a trust relationship to the elder.”

The most recent major studies on incidents reported that 7.6% to 10% of study participants experienced abuse in the prior year. And that only one out of 14 cases of elder abuse ever comes to the attention of the authorities. In a New York state study, for every case reported 24 were unknown. OMG!

According to the American Psychological Association, an estimated 2.1 million older Americans become victims somewhere on the spectrum of abuse.

This ABC news story and video shows emotionally charged testimony by Mickey Rooney testifying before a Senate committee on elder abuse about his own personal experience. You should watch this!

While elder abuse of the magnitude described by Rooney is relatively rare, geriatric experts say, instances of some kind of abuse and neglect, whether psychological, physical, sexual or financial, are a major concern among aging populations.

What Is Going On Here?

There are a couple of reasons that so few cases are ever reported.

  • Many patients have Alzheimer’s or dementia and cannot remember what happened to them. So they make bad witnesses.
  • A caregiver who may have a criminal record anyhow-one study showed that 40% of all nursing homes had at least one employee with a criminal record-may take advantage of the patient’s medical condition and abuse them.
  • This in many cases leads to a “he said she said” situation where the caregiver is usually given the benefit of the doubt.
  • For many patients in a nursing home, “out of sight out of mind” is the order of the day. Visitors are few and far between, thus observations of physical abuse such as bruising, cuts etc. go unnoticed by family members.

Concerned family members have resorted to putting hidden cameras in the rooms of their loved ones because that’s the only way that evidence can be gained to prove a case.

Law firms around the country have started taking this up as a specialty because of the growing number of cases of elder abuse.

Because state resources are spread so thin, they claim they don’t have the ability to pursue even severe cases of elder abuse. When there is a case and a fine is imposed, large corporations that own and operate most nursing homes barely blink an eye because it is so insignificant.

Believe it or not, social media may play an important part in the future of curbing this crime by raising awareness and forcing nursing home owners and operators to change their ways. Nothing gets the public’s attention better than a video showing a nursing aide abusing grandma. They often go viral which can do more harm to the facility than criminal prosecution.

The state of Oklahoma was the first to legalize the use of hidden cameras in long-term care facilities. They were quickly followed by New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas and Ohio where the Atty. Gen. located hidden cameras in residents’ rooms to capture abuse by employees and actually shut down several nursing homes.

Going forward, monitoring of a resident with a hidden camera raises ethical and legal questions. The privacy rights of others who passed through the room including roommates and visitors must be considered. Those questions become even muddier if the resident is mentally incapable and a decision to record is made by a relative or representative. These legal and ethical questions have to be balanced by the legitimate concerns of relatives and representatives of the patient about the quality of care their loved ones get.

So are hidden cameras the best way to fight elder abuse? They may be the only way!

Have you ever used a hidden spy camera to catch elder abuse? Please share your experience. We want to hear your thoughts.

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