Seeing is believing, and other tough truths for providers
James M. Berklan
Editor's note: This story has been updated to show the correct number of states which allow cameras in residents' rooms.
If you didn't work in long-term care and I asked you to specify what these five states — Illinois, Washington, Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico — have in common, we could be waiting for your answer until Donald Trump had more than a snowball's chance in hell at winning the Republican nomination for president.
In other words, a long, long, long, long time.
But since you are a well-informed long-term care professional (or "stakeholder" as some put it), you know better. (No, not that Trump would ever have a chance — or is even staging a serious run.) You already know that these five states have passed laws to allow cameras in nursing home residents' rooms.
They number five now, with a few other states being more than cozy with the idea. But I would expect more to join the bandwagon in the not-too-distant future.
For one, there have been several well-publicized instances of "granny cams" busting caregivers or others for unsavory behavior recently.
However, a non-nursing home incident could be the real spark for much wider video surveillance. Anyone who has seen the video of a young University of Cincinnati police officer shooting and killing a motorist at point-blank range last month knows what I'm referring to.
The outrageous incident involved a white police officer calmly questioning a black motorist about a missing front license plate. The motorist does not have or produce a driver's license and the low-key conversation turns suddenly violent. The officer tries to open the driver's door, the driver pulls it back and starts the car. The officer draws his weapon and shoots directly into the open window — he could have reached in and hit the driver in the head with his pistol, he was so close.
The car rolls out of control and crashes less than a block later, as the 26-year-old officer falls backward and frantically calls in the shooting on his body radio. The officer later claims that the driver dragged him with the car, a lie that two fellow officers who arrive on the scene repeat. All three are in hot water now, with the shooter being indicted on murder charges.
There is little room for doubt as to what actually happened, all because the police officer's body camera was recording the entire incident. The camera — and it alone — is the only reliable witness to the shooting. Were the camera not there, an entirely different scenario could have become the on-the-record "truth."
Pictures don't lie and seeing is believing. Can there be any doubt that that's also the line of thought that will grow among nursing home residents' family members? This is in no way to equate long-term care givers with a police officer indicted for murder. But family members suspicious or indignant about a loved ones' failing health — even under the best of care conditions — tend to demand greater scrutiny.
In Cincinnati, upset relatives and community members, who did not indulge in violent protests, as well as authorities, who promptly investigated and charged the shooter, were winners. But the biggest victor surely is the industry that produces the body cameras. Interest in them is soaring. The past years' well-publicized inflammatory encounters between authorities and civilians around the country — some backed up by video, like in Cincinnati — have created new legions of believers in police cameras.
Fair or not, long-term care operators can expect cries for more transparency thrust upon them too. The public will demand it, and authorities will feel no choice but to comply.
James M. Berklan is McKnight's Editor. Follow him @JimBerklan.