Placing a loved one in a nursing home is one of the hardest decisions you will ever make. You must place your trust – and your loved one’s health, safety, and well-being – in the hands of a facility and hope they provide your loved one with quality care.
Unfortunately, nursing home abuse and neglect are rampant. Abuse often occurs behind closed doors, and many nursing home residents are unable to communicate when they are being mistreated.
Using a granny cam in nursing home rooms is one way to protect your loved one. While hidden cameras in patient rooms can’t stop abuse from occurring, footage can be used to validate concerns, give your loved one a voice when they are being abused, and make sure abusive staff and negligent facilities are held accountable.
Can you put a camera in a nursing home? What are the rules for using nursing home hidden cameras? Here is what you need to know before you install a granny cam.
Hidden Cameras in Patient Rooms: California Law on Nursing Home Cameras
Is it legal to have cameras in patient rooms? Before installing a nanny cam in your loved one’s room, you must understand whether it is allowed under California law.
For years, the use of surveillance cameras in nursing homes was a legal gray area in California. Cameras were only allowed to be used by facilities to monitor residents in common areas. In 2015, the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) issued guidelines (CDSS Evaluator Guidelines § 2-5800) on the use of surveillance cameras in assisted living facilities and nursing homes.
Surveillance cameras in patient rooms are now allowed as long as the resident is aware of the camera and consents and the family also agrees. Before the camera can be used, the patient and family must sign a waiver which is approved by the California Community Care Licensing Division.
Can You Legally Put a Camera in a Nursing Home Room?
Yes, a hidden camera for nursing home residents’ protection is allowed in their room as long as the following steps are taken:
- The facility gives its consent
- The patient understands and consents to the camera. If they do not have the capacity to consent, this consent must be given by their conservator or agent under a power of attorney.
- The nursing home applies to the California Department of Social Services to allow the camera
- The CDSS is provided a waiver signed by the patient and family detailing the regulations the patient is waiving
- The facility updates its Plan of Operation to describe the surveillance and how the patient’s confidentiality and privacy will be maintained
- The nursing home must maintain recordings according to privacy laws
Can the Nursing Home Ban Cameras in Patient Rooms?
Facilities in California are not required to use or approve surveillance cameras in nursing homes. If your loved one’s facility denies your request to install a camera, you must accept their decision, appeal to the facility’s administrators, or move your loved one to a different facility.
Are Cameras Allowed in Assisted Living Facilities?
Yes, residents in assisted living can agree to have a camera installed in their room. Surveillance cameras in assisted living facilities require consent of the patient and family.
States That Allow Cameras in Nursing Homes
Several states specifically allow granny cam systems in nursing homes, although regulations vary by state. States that currently allow cameras in patient rooms include:
- Illinois (nursing home camera law passed in 2016)
- Residents have the right to consent to a video and/or audio recording device in their room paid for by their family. The IL Department of Public Health created a fund to pay for the purchase and installation of monitoring devices for residents selected by lottery. Nursing homes cannot retaliate or discriminate against residents for the use of monitoring systems, and the tampering or destruction of a camera is a criminal offense. However, cameras must be installed in a conspicuous, visible area with posted signs stating electronic monitoring is in place.
- Kansas (nursing home camera law passed in 2020)
- Facilities must provide a secure place to mount the camera and electrical power and cannot turn the camera off. Cameras may have two-way communication allowing loved ones to communicate with and monitor the resident in real time.
- Louisiana (passed a nursing home surveillance law in 2019)
- Louisiana allows families to place nursing home cameras in their loved one’s room. The camera must be stationary with a fixed view on the person who granted consent. The nursing home must be notified and there must be signs stating the room is under video surveillance.
- Minnesota (passed a nursing home camera law in 2020)
- Nursing home and assisted living residents have the right to electronic monitoring. The law requires notifying the facility, consent by the resident, and consent from any roommates. Residents and families can only install a surveillance camera for 2 weeks before notifying the facility.
- Missouri (passed a nursing home electronic monitoring law in 2020)
- The Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act allows families and residents to place surveillance cameras in nursing homes and assisted living facilities. The law requires a sign posted to indicate the room is being monitored. The law makes it a crime to tamper with or obstruct devices or data and provides requirements for reporting, when the footage may be used as evidence, and who can view the footage.
- New Jersey
- The state has a “Safe Care Cam” program that lends surveillance equipment to consumers for 30 days including nursing home and assisted living residents and family members who suspect abuse.
- New Mexico (passed a video surveillance law in 2004)
The Patient Care Monitoring Act gives nursing home residents and families the right to install video cameras and audio recorders at their own expense. The facility must be informed about the camera.
- North Dakota
- The state allows residents and families to install hidden surveillance cameras in assisted living and nursing home rooms. The facility must be notified in writing and the camera must be placed in a fixed, stationary position to only monitor the resident, not their roommate. The facility’s management is forbidden from accessing footage.
- Ohio (passed a nursing home surveillance law in 2022)
- Ohio became the latest state to specifically allow surveillance cameras in patient rooms in 2022 with the passage of Esther’s Law. Long-term care residents can install video cameras after providing the facility with a form authorizing the camera. Only the resident, their guardian, or their attorney-in-fact can authorize the camera. The law was named for Esther Piskor, a nursing home abuse victim in Cleveland whose abuse was uncovered by a hidden camera.
- Oklahoma (passed a nursing home surveillance law in 2020)
- Nursing home residents have the right to install surveillance cameras at their own expense. Nursing homes must notify residents of their right to electronic monitoring in their rooms and they cannot refuse residents based on the use of authorized monitoring. The law specifically states that recordings created with authorized cameras can be admitted as evidence in civil and criminal proceedings.
- South Dakota
- The state allows residents in nursing homes and assisted living facilities to install closed-loop video surveillance in their room.
- Texas gives residents and families the legal right to monitor a loved one’s care in a nursing home. It’s illegal for a nursing home in Texas to refuse a request to install a hidden surveillance camera in the patient’s room. However, the nursing home must be provided prior notice and released from liability for violation of the resident’s privacy. Written consent must be obtained from a roommate and a conspicuous note must be posted in the room saying it is monitored with a date and time stamp.
- The state requires long-term care facilities to allow residents to install surveillance cameras and provide reasonable accommodations to facilitate the installation and use of monitoring devices. New and current residents must be informed of their right to install surveillance monitoring. Washington law does require giving the facility written notice and obtaining written consent from a roommate (but the facility can be asked to move a loved one to a new room if the roommate objects). Cameras must be installed at the resident or family’s expense.
- Wisconsin operates a program to loan out hidden surveillance cameras to families who suspect a loved one is being abused.
California is notably absent from this list. While the CDSS has updated its guidelines to allow surveillance cameras in patient rooms, there is no California law mandating nursing home cameras. Facilities are still free to deny a request by a resident or family members to install a camera. This is not a legally protected right.
In 2021, a bill went before the California Legislature that, if passed, would add California to this list of states that allow cameras in nursing homes. The Electronic Monitoring in Residential Care Facilities Act would require posting a sign stating the room is under surveillance. Facilities would need to provide the California DSS access to the data within 24 hours and be forbidden from accessing the data without a court order or written consent.
Ethics of Surveillance Cameras in Patient Rooms
Some long-term care facilities and elder care advocates resist the idea of surveillance cameras due to privacy concerns. Nursing home cameras can violate the resident’s privacy, especially if the camera records audio or records them while they are bathing, changing, or using a bedpan. Cameras may also violate the privacy of roommates and staff members.
Nursing homes and home care providers often express concern that surveillance cameras can create resentment among staff and make it harder to fill positions in jobs that are already understaffed, difficult, and low-paying.
Despite ethical concerns, long-term care advocates and families agree that there are clear advantages to granny cam systems in nursing homes and elder care facilities.
You may suspect a loved one is being neglected or abused but have no other way to verify your suspicions. Your loved one may be unable to communicate what is happening to them. You may worry that expressing concerns to the facility or staff will allow them to cover their tracks.
Surveillance cameras in patient rooms allow family members to ensure their loved one is receiving the care they deserve. If abuse occurs, a camera can catch the abuser in the act and provide proof to report elder abuse and hold them accountable.
There have even been many cases in which abuse was caught on camera and led to criminal charges. Without care home cameras in place, it may have been impossible to prove the abuse was occurring or prevent the perpetrators from simply changing facilities and continuing to abuse vulnerable residents.
In March 2022, a caregiver in Folsom pleaded no contest to misdemeanor elder abuse after being caught on camera abusing a 90-year-old resident of a Brookdale Senior Living facility. The victim’s granddaughter hid a granny cam and reported the abuse after seeing two caregivers slap the victim, pull her hair, and laugh while tormenting her. The judge told the granddaughter in court, “Good for you that you put that camera in there.”
Best Practices for Using Nursing Home Hidden Cameras to Protect Your Loved One
Until California passes a law granting nursing home residents the right to surveillance, there are limited guidelines on how they should be used, and their use is at the facility’s discretion. If you choose to install a nursing home camera, make sure you follow these steps to avoid violating the privacy of your loved one or a roommate or violating any other laws and regulations.
- Request a surveillance camera from the nursing home and, if approved, sign a waiver for approval from the CDSS.
- Make sure the camera only captures video. There should be no audio component.
- The camera should be placed in the main living area, never a bathroom, and be pointed toward your loved one, not a roommate.
- Do not install a hidden camera in a nursing home without your loved one’s consent or approval from the facility. This can violate the facility’s policy and state or federal laws. Footage may not be admissible as evidence.
Hidden cameras in patient rooms come with ethical concerns and drawbacks, but they are an important way to protect your loved one and ensure they receive the quality care they deserve. If you suspect your loved one has been the victim of nursing home neglect or abuse, or you have video evidence of mistreatment, a California nursing home abuse lawyer can help. Contact Berman & Riedel, LLP to schedule a free consultation. Our San Diego law firm handles nursing home neglect and abuse cases throughout California!