Discussing the Legality of Nursing Home Surveillance

It is difficult to ignore the continuous flow of headlines regarding nursing home abuse. It has become a prevalent issue across the U.S. However, imagine the number of cases that go unreported. Many times incidents of abuse and neglect are brought to light because of video surveillance. We have seen an increase in the number of abusive acts caught on tape and shared through the help of media and news outlets. After all, video surveillance technology is readily available ranging from nanny cams, to spy cams, to traditional video cameras.

How has the use of video cameras impacted the cases of nursing abuse? How does it impact a person’s right to privacy? The use of video surveillance has sparked some debate on whether it is legal to use them in nursing homes.

Real World, Real Results

surveillance.jpgIn February of this year, a surveillance video caught a nurse by the name of Rosemarie Brooks, attacking a 73-year-old resident at the Bronx Park Rehabilitation and Nursing Center. The resident sustained head injuries as a result of the incident.

This April, with the help of video surveillance footage, the New York State Attorney General was able to apprehend and charge eight nurses and nine nursing assistants with felony and misdemeanor counts.

A non-ambulatory and bedridden 56-year-old resident of HighPointe nursing home suffered continuous neglect at the hands of the 17 staff members. They failed to check on him, give him liquids, and perform incontinence care repeatedly and this was all caught on a hidden camera.

The nurses and nursing assistants were consequently charged with first degree falsifying business records, first degree endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person, and willful violation of public health laws.

Most recently in August, a home health aide from Personal-Touch Home Care was caught on tape abusing a 78-year-old Queens, NY stroke victim. The aide continuously slapped the paralyzed man’s arm, jerked his head, and force-fed him.

With the flood of nursing home abuse and neglect cases, Attorney General Eric Schneiderman states, “My office will continue to hold nursing home employees to the highest responsibility to ensure that New York’s most vulnerable receive the best and most compassionate care possible.”

The Law on Surveillance

Some question whether it is legal for nursing homes or families to use video surveillance in the facility and patient rooms. As it stands, there are no federal laws either prohibiting or specifically authorizing the use of video monitoring in a nursing home. The Federal Wiretapping Law governs the use of surveillance devices that record audio communications but does not regulate silent video surveillance.

While some states may begin regulating the use of hidden cameras in nursing facilities, to date New York does not have a law in place to regulate the use of hidden cameras. The majority view holds that the benefit of keeping nursing home residents safe and free from neglect outweighs the need for privacy.

Invasion of Privacy

To balance safety needs and the right to privacy, some nursing homes require that families post a sign notifying room visitors and staff that there are cameras present. In the case of nursing homes, some post signs indicating that video surveillance is used in the facility. Although some nursing homes have enforced these measures in some states, this is not a requirement and the majority of facilities have yet to implement this type of notification.

Would You Like to File A Complain Against A Nursing Home?

The New York State Department of Health, Nursing Home and ICF/MR Surveillance is responsible for investigating complaints and incidents for nursing homes in New York State. You can submit a complaint online, via email or by mail. You can also call the Nursing Home Complaint hotline at 1-888-201-4563.

Contact Us

Nursing home and elder abuse is a serious matter. If you suspect that your loved one is the victim of abuse or neglect, you should file a complaint and contact an attorney immediately. If you require further assistance or legal help regarding nursing home abuse or neglect, contact our New York office today.

For more news and information on nursing home surveillance, check the following sites:

NY Times, Watchful Eye in Nursing Homes, Jan Hoffman, November 18, 2013
CBS NY, Bronx Nurse’s Aide Accused Of Abusing Elderly Alzheimer’s Patient, February 15, 2013
WIVB 4, Hidden camera leads to charges against 17 workers at nursing home,

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