The Des Moines Register had an article on the need for video surveillance of nursing home residents.  The article references the Des Moines Sunday Register investigation by Clark Kauffman that told the tragic story of Cheryll Scherf.   Her family installed a motion-activated camera in her room. This captured, among other incidents, staff repeatedly leaving Scherf in bed, naked from the waist down, with the door to the room left open. The video also showed she wasn’t given her prescription medication.

“A reasonable person would feel degraded, embarrassed and ashamed” by this treatment, according to the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals.  The family could not have proven neglect without the video.  The neglect was covered up with false documentation and tampering with patient records, according to criminal charges filed against the caregivers.

The story of this Iowa woman underscores the need to ensure all residents in long-term care facilities are guaranteed the explicit right to possess and use cameras in their rooms.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid should implement a rule specifically guaranteeing residents can use cameras for their own protection as long as the privacy of other residents is respected. The agency administers Medicaid, the federal health insurance program that pays the bills for more than 60 percent of the 1.4 million people in this country’s nursing homes.

Nursing homes should welcome such personal use of cameras anyway. Families bear the cost. Workers who know they’re being watched may be motivated to follow guidelines and provide good care. That helps protect nursing homes from allegations of mistreatment and vulnerable patients from abuse.

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