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Oklahoma to Permit Electronic Surveillance in Nursing Homes to Prevent Elder Abuse

November 19, 2013 – Propelled by a number of recent nursing home elder abuse cases, Oklahoma becomes the third state in the nation to permit residents in long-term care facilities to use surveillance cameras in their rooms. Although some states have administrative guidelines for electronic monitoring in nursing homes, most legislative efforts have failed because of questions about liability and privacy rights. However, despite such concerns, not only have family members turned to these ‘granny cams,’ but even the government has admitted to using them.

Free Nursing Home Elder Abuse Lawsuit Evaluation: If your family member or other loved one was the victim of elder abuse in a nursing home, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a lawsuit and we can help.

What’s the Problem?

Doris Racher started noticing small things missing that she had purchased for her 96-year-old mother, who was suffering from dementia at a nursing home in Oklahoma City. First a toothbrush and a new tube of lipstick, then a nightie. Ms. Racher assumed the culprit was another resident of the facility, but there was no way to be sure. So last year, Ms. Racher purchased a motion-activated hidden camera and placed it in her mother’s room.

Two months later, the family looked through the recordings. The camera hadn’t caught a petty thief, but something much more bizarre: an attendant stuffing latex gloves into Mrs. Mayberry’s mouth, while another poked at her, tapped her on the head and laughed. Then they lifted her out of her wheelchair and flung her on a bed. One performed a number of unnecessarily heavy chest compressions.

“My niece started bawling and couldn’t watch anymore,” said Ms. Racher, 78. “I was furious.” Mrs. Mayberry died not long after. Sadly, cases like these are becoming more and more commonplace.

In June, Ohio state attorney general Mike DeWine announced that his office had placed cameras in residents’ rooms in state facilities. Mr. DeWine has called for one facility in Zanesville to be closed down after cameras caught actions like an attendant’s repeatedly leaving a stroke patient’s food by his side, and never actually feeding him.

The cameras can have a significant impact. Based on Ms. Racher’s videos, one attendant pleaded guilty to abuse and neglect, and another apparently fled the country. Similar incidents have been captured on video in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, and other states.

Placing hidden cameras is often a last-ditch effort by relatives who suspect elder abuse but feel that authorities disregard their complaints.

“Families are witnessing injuries and neglect of loved ones, and the only way to detect what’s happening is to use hidden cameras,” said Wes Bledsoe, the founder of A Perfect Cause, an Oklahoma-based group that tracks elder abuse cases across the country.

But the secret monitoring of nursing home residents also raises a number of troubling legal and ethical questions. Families must balance fears for their relative’s safety against a very real invasion of their privacy. They must also consider the privacy rights of others who pass through the facility, including roommates and visitors. As well, the use of hidden cameras may work wonders at catching guilty parties after the fact, but how much can they do to address the deep-seated problems at many nursing homes?

“We shouldn’t rely on them to substitute for proper staffing and training, which are better ways to assure quality,” said Marie-Therese Connolly, a former Justice Department coordinator of the Elder Justice and Nursing Home Initiative.

Do I Have a Nursing Home Elder Abuse Lawsuit?

The Medical Malpractice Litigation Group at our law firm is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focus on the representation of plaintiffs in nursing home elder abuse lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new cases in all 50 states.

Free Nursing Home Elder Abuse Lawsuit Evaluation: If your family member or other loved one was the victim of elder abuse in a nursing home, you should contact our law firm immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a nursing home elder abuse lawsuit and we can help.

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