Clara Berridge

As the use of “granny cams” grows in nursing homes, researchers are warning about the possible ethical considerations.

Seven states have now passed laws explicitly permitting camera use in residents’ rooms, and at least a dozen more have proposed legislation.

But there is scant research exploring the ethical implications of surveilling nursing home residents, experts note in the study, published last week in AJOB Empirical Bioethics.

“We need to engage more seriously with the ethical dimensions of this practice and conduct empirical research on stakeholders’ perspectives and outcomes,” wrote Clara Berridge, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Social Work at the University of Washington. “The need for this level of engagement is pressing at a time of renewed attention by policymakers and an uptick in proposed bills across the country.”

In a survey of 273 long-term care professionals across 39 states and the District of Columbia, 75% of respondents noted at least one potential disadvantage with in-room camera use, while more than 50% noted at least one advantage. Common complaints included the invasion of privacy, undermining the home-like experience of a nursing home, and potential negative effects on staffers.

“There are no advantages that outweigh the concerns and the kind of culture you create by doing this,” one respondent wrote.

On the flipside, some of the most commonly raised advantages included using cameras to deter abuse and aid in investigations. Others also saw them as a tool to possibly improve care quality and correct staff behaviors.

“I think a camera being present would hold staff to a high level of accountability and reduce risk of abuse,” another respondent wrote.