Cameras can help detect and deter abuse in nursing homes. Nursing home staff members are significantly less likely to mistreat residents when they are aware of video monitoring. When abuse is detected, video cameras provide invaluable evidence.
Daughter Catches Nursing Home Abuse on Camera
In summer 2019, a daughter suspecting neglect at a nursing home set up a hidden camera and captured evidence of her 86-year-old mother getting verbally and physically abused by a nursing assistant. Renee Herwin put a tiny, hidden camera in a picture frame and placed it on a countertop in her mother’s room at Peak Resource nursing home in North Carolina.
Within 24 hours of installing the camera, Herwin had two disturbing videos of her mother getting abused by staff at the nursing home. The first video shows a nursing assistant yelling at Skip MacNally while changing her and then violently moving her across the bed. The elderly woman – who is blind and suffers from Alzheimer’s disease – cries out in pain several times and even asks if she’s done something wrong. Herwin says she had expected some form of neglect, but not such verbal and violent abuse. The two employees captured in the videos were fired by the nursing home.
Nursing Home Abuse is Prevalent but Underreported
About 5 million elderly people are abused each year. It’s estimated that 1 in 10 elders have been abused or will experience some form of abuse. Nursing home abuse in the U.S. is grossly understated, largely because it remains under-reported. Many elderly residents are unable to communicate due to mental or physical infirmities. Also, elderly nursing home residents are less likely to report abuse out of a pervasive sense of helplessness and fear of retaliation by staff members.
One in five ER visits from a nursing home can be tied to abuse. Nursing homes, however, fail to report abuse cases to local law enforcement or Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), as required by federal regulators. Even when reported, such incidents may go uninvestigated or unpunished. This allows many nursing home staff members to continue harming residents.
Types of Nursing Home Abuse
Nursing home abuse comes in many forms, including:
- Assault and battery (slapping, kicking, beating, shaking, pushing, threats)
- Emotional, verbal, and psychological abuse
- Unreasonable seclusion or physical/chemical restraint
- Deprivation of basic life necessities
- Rape or other forms of sexual assault
- Financial exploitation
Women, veterans, high-need patients, LGBT residents, and those with severe physical and cognitive impairments are at greater risk of getting abused. Nursing home abuse continues to occur because of staffing shortages, underpaid staff, lack of staff experience and training, poor facility management, individual resident risk factors, and personal caregiver issues.