Cameras in nursing homes? Better get used to them

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John O'Connor
John O'Connor

Street cameras played a major role in identifying the two brothers who allegedly bombed the Boston Marathon. In the wake of this helpful development, public support is growing for expanded use of cameras in high-congestion areas.

The rationale behind this push is easy to understand: When bad things happen, let's use every possible legal tool to catch the bad guys. But others are countering that going this route will sacrifice the privacy of individuals. If this rhetoric sounds familiar, it should. A very similar debate has begun playing out at many facilities nationwide.

There's a telling scene in the film 42, when Brooklyn Dodgers Manager Leo Durocher  (played by Christopher Meloni) warns his white baseball players to embrace the addition of their new black colleague: “If (Jackie) Robinson can help us win, then he is gonna play on this ball club!” Durocher then reminds his players that many more blacks will soon be employed in the Majors.

So it is with cameras in nursing homes. For the most part, the field continues to fight their inclusion, for obvious reasons. Yes, privacy is a legitimate issue. But that really is a fairly flimsy objection — especially when one considers the many ways that many facilities routinely give privacy the short shrift.

Let's face it: The real concern for many providers is possible retribution, especially if it comes in the form of whopping lawsuits. After all, who wants to give a plaintiff's attorney damaging ammunition? And given the hiring selections that many facilities are forced to make, it's not hard to see why operators would not want the worst moments of dubious staff members memorialized for the ages.

So I completely understand the industry's staunch opposition to cameras. Unfortunately, it's not a position for the long term. As the wake of the Boston Marathon tragedy revealed, recording devices have become ubiquitous. Rare is the person these days under age 50 who is not walking around with a video camera in his or her pocket. It's more commonly called a smartphone.

Trying to limit the future use of these devices will make herding cats look easy. But beyond the logistical challenge, there's also the strong possibility that opponents will end up on the wrong side of history. After all, it's hard to say that quality care is your top priority when your actions suggest less benevolent motives.

Cameras are here to stay. The sooner your organization embraces that reality, the better off your future will be.


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Daily Editors' Notes

McKnight's Daily Editors' Notes features commentary on the latest in long-term care news and issues. Entries are written by Editorial Director John O'Connor, Editor James M. Berklan, Senior Editor Elizabeth Newman and Staff Writer Marty Stempniak.