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Video Surveillance of Nursing Home Residents: Legal in PA?

Posted in Nursing Home Neglect on Friday, May 10, 2019.

If you have a loved one in residential care in the state of Pennsylvania, you may naturally worry about their safety and well-being, especially in light of the allegations that we regularly hear coming from this sector. No one wants to believe that the most vulnerable among us—our aging parents and grandparents—may endure abuse at the hands of those paid to care for them, but it happens all the time. You may be wondering if installing hidden cameras in your loved one’s room in order to monitor their care and treatment is a good idea, and if it’s even permissible under the law. The short answer is, maybe.

Pennsylvania doesn’t specifically say that doing so is legal or illegal, and there are generally no legal hurdles with the installation of video-only cameras. However, installing such equipment must be done so in accordance with the state’s Wiretapping and Electronic Surveillance Control Act, which requires two-party consent for audio recording. Simply put, you will need to get permission if you want to install a camera that also captures audio—from the nursing home itself and any staff that might be subject to recording. This can make installation complicated, especially since video evidence of abuse may not be as convincing as video and audio evidence.

Elder abuse in our country is shockingly rampant, according to the National Council on Aging (NCOA). At least 10 percent of people aged 60 or over have been victimized in some way—and experts say this estimate is likely on the low end, since many abuse victims are either too frail and sick, too embarrassed, or even too forgetful due to dementia to remember their abuse and report it. Abuse is not always physical; sexual, psychological and financial abuse also occur, as does passive neglect, when necessities such as food, medical care and clothing are withheld by the caregiver.

Privacy Concerns with Hidden Surveillance

The Federal Nursing Home Reform Act protects the rights of nursing home residents, including their rights to privacy. Most nursing homes are fast to point out that video surveillance of residents can rightly raise concerns about the resident’s right to privacy. Nonetheless, some advocacy groups for elders, including the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) and National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, support video surveillance by families.

Supporters say surveillance may be the only practical method that families have to ensure proper care of their aging loved ones in the throes of Alzheimer’s or dementia who may not remember the abuse that they are subjected to or lack the mental capacity to report it. Since residents with cognitive impairments are statistically the most-often abused, video surveillance for patients that fall into this category may be particularly useful, says proponents of their use.

If your loved one has experienced abuse at the hands of nursing home or assisted living staff, our Philadelphia nursing home abuse attorney wants to help. Contact Soloff &Zervanos, P.C. now to discuss the details of your case.