ESA is consistently urged by families and legal guardians of
the elderly to advocate the voluntary use of video surveillance to ensure
safety at elder-care facilities, such as nursing homes and assisted-living providers.
The case for video was made even stronger by a recent article in The New York
John Chwat, ESA’s director of government relations, said the
article is a timely reminder that the issue is becoming more important than
ever – especially since more than 70 million people will be 65 or older by
2030. Residents of elder-care facilities would benefit from enhanced security
through the use of video in common areas, he said, as well as in the rooms of
Chwat says ESA is taking a two-pronged approach to
"We’re working at the state level to encourage bills that
will allow the voluntary use of video monitoring to protect the elderly,” he
said. "We’re also working at the federal level with the Senate Select Committee
on Aging to urge reauthorization of the Older Americans Act, with amendments
that would protect residents of elder care facilities.”
The amendment includes a study of existing laws, as well as
a pilot project by the Department of Health and Human Services, with a report
due to Congress in 2015; a grant formula pilot project for states with large
populations of nursing home residents regarding the feasibility of mandating
surveillance on a voluntary basis; and public Congressional hearings on the
issue of elder-care abuse.
Chwat says the timing is particularly favorable among states. In 2013, Oklahoma and Virginia became the latest states (joining Texas and New Mexico) to explicitly permit residents in long-term care
facilities to maintain surveillance cameras in their rooms. A number of other
states – including New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Rhode Island and New
Hampshire – are considering similar bills. ESA is working aggressively with its
Chartered Chapters to advance those bills.
"I haven’t seen as many state bills in one period as there
have been in 2012 and 2013,” Chwat said. "This seems to be an issue that’s
bubbling up from the state level, and if states are starting to pass
legislation like this, that means they’re starting to recognize that it’s
something that needs to be addressed.”
The demands on the elder-care system will grow in line with
the aging population. The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that more
than 40 percent of people over the age of 65 will enter a nursing home before
It’s difficult to put precise numbers on the amount of abuse
in elder-care facilities, since a large number of incidents are never
discovered or never reported. However, in a 2008 survey of 2,000 nursing home
residents, 44 percent said they had been abused, while 95 percent said they had
either been neglected or had seen another resident neglected.
The anecdotal evidence, however, is chilling. The Times article,
"Watchful Eye in Nursing Homes,” details the use of video cameras set up
discreetly and privately by relatives to monitor treatment of their loved ones.
It cites instances of physical abuse, taunting, neglect and other incidents.
It also presents both sides of the debate over video monitoring.
While relatives and advocacy groups say it’s an important tool in protecting
loved ones and proving abuse to authorities who sometimes dismiss complaints,
others feel it raises legal and ethical questions, as well as challenging the
professionalism of staff members.