Cameras in aged care bedrooms: providers warned of legal issues

Aged care providers should be aware of the legal implications of families installing surveillance devices in residents’ bedrooms without permission.

Aged care providers should be aware of the legal implications of families installing surveillance devices in residents’ bedrooms without permission.

That’s according to aged care paralegal Sophie Andritsos, who is researching the area as part of her Monash University law degree honours thesis.

The use of surveillance devices – particularly streaming and video recording devices – is increasing in residential aged care.

Sophie Andritsos

Many families are installing devices in the bedrooms of relatives who have dementia or other cognitive impairment because of safety concerns around falls or even abuse.

But Ms Andritsos argues these families may not have a legal right to do so.

“We have a tendency to infantalise older people and this is shaping how we approach surveillance devices in care,” Ms Andritsos told Australian Ageing Agenda.

“There are social and policy issues tied up in this, but providers and appointed decision-makers should also be aware of the legal limits and implications of the actions they are taking.”

Ms Andritsos’s research aimed to find out how the law treated the use of surveillance cameras in aged care and the best practice process for providers.

She explored the issue under the different state surveillance, health records and decision-making legislation, federal privacy and aged care law as well as potential tort law that may apply.

Ms Andritsos also considered the right of aged care residents to privacy and dignity in a homelike environment, and the obligation of the aged care provider to protect this right.

Consent should be obtained

The findings, which she will present at next week’s National Elder Abuse Conference, suggest that decision-makers may not be empowered to consent to the use of  camera’s in a resident’s room.

This also has implications for aged care providers, she said.

“The key takeaway is that it isn’t clear that the decision making powers that can be granted under a Guardianship Order, Power of Attorney or Advance Health Directive provide for you to film someone in their bedroom,” Ms Andritsos said.

“Filming someone in their bedroom is something you should obtain consent to do. The ability to consent to this kind of arrangement on behalf of a protected person isn’t necessarily what is granted under a standard guardianship order.”

She said residential aged care providers should take cues and instructions from the resident first.

“Third party decision-makers should only be relied upon as a last resort, and should only be making decisions within their scope of powers.”

The 5th National Elder Abuse Conference takes place on 19-20 February at the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth.

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Tags: cameras, elder-abuse, operational, Sophie Andritsos, surveillance,

29 thoughts on “Cameras in aged care bedrooms: providers warned of legal issues

  1. I might think it is too simple – the providers promote to potential residents that where the resident lives is resident’s home so presumably their bedroom is their private space where they should feel safe. By default families nominated on care plans can install the cameras.

  2. I have enduring power of attorney and advance care done for my mother
    also enduring guardian
    can I legally place a camera in my mothers room
    She is in a closed dementia unit, and the organization are not allowing me to

  3. I think it is potentially a good thing. I’ve worked in aged care for a very long time and can honestly say the majority of care workers (AIN’s, PC’s, RN”s, EEN’s, AH etc etc) are good people with kind intentions and they have nothing to worry about being observed going about their work. Occasionally you get a bad egg though. They’re the ones that need to be weeded out.

    And in even the best facilities I have seen neglect. If it was my parent I would want to know.

  4. The whole point of having a third party decision maker is that the protected person can no longer make decisions for themselves. How can a facility take cues and instructions from a person with dementia? Guardianship only applies when there is incapacity for decision making. A dementia person will not be believed if they say that something happened to them and with confusion and short term memory loss it is very easy to dismiss what is said. If the person then displays increased anxiety their medication is increased. They are treated like infants and they are not listened to, so if family members have a concern their only redress is to get proof. In my own experience my mother stated that she was pushed, the nurse on duty just smiled at me and nodded. I know my mother and I know her demeanour, she was pushed.

  5. My poor mother is now in a Critical condition in hospital due to elder abuse,I wish I had installed a camera

  6. What about the staff”s roght to work gree from harassment and abuse from families and residents. Being under constant surveillance is a form of harassment. Cameras are an anuse of the tesident”s privacy. Would you like to be filmed having your botoom washed and changed? Do you want to be filmed having a pee in the toilet? Let’s get real.

  7. I work in aged care and I think a camera is a good thing as it might let families know what is also happening to staff while caring for residents living with dementia.

  8. It would appear that once a person goes into residential care all their basic human rights and dignity go out the window. Having cameras in residents’ rooms is disgusting. How would you like being filmed in your only meager little bit of space. Shocking!

  9. I also work in aged care. It is quite common to experience workplace aggression and violence when caring for clients with dementia. We are trained to use passive self-defence techniques to keep you (the carer) and your client/s safe.

  10. I have mixed views as i work with the elderly have done for a very long one stated there is always and will continue to be bad eggs.and yes people with dementia are not listened to..ive seen it first hand of abuse and they not do address if family have major concerns i think cameras can be good and the only way to weed them out the bad an AIN and u do wrong you can shift from facilty to as AINS we should be registered so that the bad eggs cant keep hurting our loved ones and the frail..

  11. Is it legal for family members to take photos of staff whilst attending to their loved ones in an aged care facility?

  12. Remember this if it becomes law and Nursing homes can install CCTV in residents bedrooms and bathrooms to stop Elder abuse: Many D.O.N.’s have access to CCTV live at their own homes, and that opens a whole new Pandora’s box for Elder Abuse.

  13. This isn’t about privacy, its about monitoring the care provided to our vulnerable elderly.

    What is everyone afraid of?

    Perhaps they just don’t want you to see unskilled and unsupervised care workers roughly manhandling residents and not washing them properly (or not at all) when they change them, or using the same pair of gloves as they move from room to room, or their incompetent manual handling technique and disgraceful behavior management skills?

    Put the cameras up, open up the dark rooms and show the public exactly how our de-skilled, dumbed-down and short- staffed industry operates.

    It wont be pretty…And many of our award-winning aged care leaders will have some explaining to do. But this might just be the best way to fix the sector and expose it for what it really is…a failed market.

    I can see providers shaking in their boots already…and I can hear the government groaning under the weight of public outrage. Contracting out government responsibilities to private operators and them letting them run wild just doesnt work. We’ve already seen this in the UK, NZ and USA.

    I suspect those who boast the loudest about their care and services will be the first to run and hide

  14. I work for a Nurse Call system provider and spend most of my days in nursing homes, installing and servicing systems. I have often wondered how some people are employed due to lack of knowledge of the industry and lack of care. I was thinking, what about nurses wearing a small body cam, like the police have. There are so many legal issues with having a camera in a room but if a nurse has it and its backed up to a company placed server so no one can delete anything this might get around the legal issue. I cant see any company going against it as this can work for both resident and worker.

  15. I work in age care and yes there are bad eggs working there but there is a hell of a lot of caring and dedicated people who care for our elderly. Do I think we should have cameras in bedrooms, yes and no. Yes to prevent elderly abuse happening but no because at the end of day we must put the dignity and respect of the person first. Do you honestly think that a family member would not be distressed to see their parent with dementia lying in their bed at night eating their own faeces, that is a reality fact with some of the dementia conditions. Do you honestly think that your parent would be happy to have a camera rolling when staff are changing them because they fully incontinent but cognitively intact. I have no problem and have on many occasions invited family members to stay in the room when preparing to do personal care as they are visiting early and voicing a concern and have not had one of them accept stating they will wait outside as we don’t think mum or dad would want us to be there. And if a family member has requested to stay, we are always obligated to ask the residents permission and they get the final say. We are not all dumb downed, de-skilled but certainly short staffed. These comments are offensive to the dedication of those carers out there. Let us first start with the Government and educational facilities who are funding and providing the courses for people to obtain their cert 3, a requirement to work in these industries. I can tell you from first hand experience that people are working in these industries because educational providers obtain funding for every person they pass, it is not in their business interest to fail them, especially the privately run ones. And I fully agree with a national register of carers and nursing staff because the bad eggs don’t last long in a facility but they leave the damage behind and then just move on to the next place. I live in a regional town and the age care and health industry are the biggest employers up here. I quote one girl who said to me “I hate this f—–g job” and when I asked her why the hell she was here she replied “cause centre link made me do the course”. I myself and I know of other staff who have been threatened and bullied by other staff for advocating on behalf of a resident. At the end of the day it comes down to the people working in the industries to report the bad eggs, we are each responsible for our own actions and if we don’t report our co workers when we see something that is not right then we are as guilty as they are. Will we ever have cameras in bedrooms — NO because despite a persons ability or disability they still have a right of choice and a right of will and these choices should be protected.

  16. If there wasn’t such abuse and errors, the topic of cameras wouldn’t be necessary. But there is. And the fact that there are Nursing Homes who very readily (and are very clever at) “sweeping things under the carpet” (words quoted to me by the Nursing Home where my Mum (regrettably) resided and brushing things off with “there are no witnesses, so nothing we can do”, renders the legality of camera installation -vs- the (by comparison now) “small” concern for unauthorised viewing (which can be regulated to prevent and or deter anyway) a necessity. The Nursing Home staff and management who have done the wrong, are the ones to thank for this push for camera surveillance. We lay-people with loved-ones who have been wronged and who have been bullied by Nursing Homes because we’ve logged complaints, well know why Nursing Homes would be scared and very reticent to have camera surveillance. Well, thee reap what thee sow.

  17. I believe technology can play a huge part in fixing the industry that’s why we should Use the technology at hand to help prevent abuse and neglect! Nurse call alert systems have the functionality through RTLS to show how long residents are left after activating a call, who attends the call and how long time is spent with the resident.

    This will also show how many times residents are visited or interacted by the care staff throughout a day. The system if programmed right will allow you to see if residents who are dependant on staff to be mobilised are being placed within the facility and left for long periods of time.

    I know the thought of having CCTV in the residents rooms is an invasion of privacy but if it was a thermal camera where no identity is shown then this could work and the identification would be know via the RTLS staff badges and resident tags.

    If an incident was to happen then you could trace back to the day it happened, check who attended the room via the badge and then with this information you can check the thermal CCTV footage of that day and times.

    I know this doesn’t stop the human side of this issue but it’s a solution and it’s available now.

  18. I think a more effective way to manage the problem would be more intensive training and PD for nursing staff. This, however, requires enormous amounts of private or government funding to get off the ground. This cause would benefit from using social media campaigns to inform the wider population of the issue. A significant amount of people will need some sort of living assistance once they are 65 or over. If they don’t, they are likely to have a family member or a friend who does. Hence abuse of the elderly is an issue that is or will be personal to many Australians. A social media campaign that encourages people to share infographics with statistics of people who will need living assistance and the chance they will be abused could be effective. The campaign should encourage people to actually write to their local MP expressing their passion for the issue to advocate for more funding to the sector. If a wide range of people from all age demographics are seen to be interested in the issue and apply pressure to the government to fund more holistic training for caring staff, the campaign would be successful. Politicians are more likely to act on lobbying activity if it’s seen to be universal.

    Anti-violence against women’s campaigns have adopted a similar approach, framing it as an issue that affects everyone, not just women and girl. The messaging has rightly represented it as an issue that requires everyone in society to be educated about and support. Similar messaging like these images for advocating for policy to intervene in abuse of the elderly in care could be effective.

  19. Great article, this hits the nail on the head. I know my grandma would be horrified at the thought her adult children watching her in bed or in the bathroom. It’s creepy as well as being unlawful.

    If the resident wants a camera there (and can consent), then by all means. But if not, I think it needs to be handled very sensitively and respectfully/

    There are some really good perspectives in the comments too. Josh, to your point re police cams, we have to remember that people dealing with the police are usually in their care or in public areas, not in their bedrooms. Aged care is provided in people’s homes.

  20. Having worked in Aged Care for many years, I see abuse stemming from many issues. I believe there should be mandatory ratios of Registered Nurses to residents and an adequate number of Enrolled Nurses to supervise Care staff. In addition, we now have staff from many different cultures, some of whom disagree with how we house our older dependent people.
    As many providers (even Not for Profits) insist on their profits being maintained, staff cuts are inevitable. Too few staff caring for too many residents is bound to cause stress when Carers are trying to complete their tasks and this can lead to abuse being perpetrated.
    Staff education and correct role modelling are essential but so is supervision on all shifts. When a complaint is made, it must be followed up by investigation with the complaint and outcome logged into a Complaints Register. This is not always done.
    Lastly, I believe we should pay our Carers higher wages which would allow facilities to select the best staff. Other incentives should follow plus annual performance appraisals by senior staff who actually know how the staff member is performing. Negative issues should be noted and time frames given for improvement.

  21. There are pro’s and cons to surveillance in nursing homes. But without proof how are you able to show or justify that some sort of mistreatment has occurred, the home can easily dismiss any concerns raised. My mother has dementia and has been in a nursing home for 61/2 years now, care at the beginning was good however staff cut backs and what I call poor training has left our family more than suspicious about the level of care she is receiving. I think room video surveillance would at least allay our fears of what sort of treatment she is getting. Surveillance would be limited to the room space only and not venture towards the toilet/bathroom area where I believe privacy concerns would definitely be raised. I don’t see how this would effect staff in any way as the nursing home already has surveillance in all hallways, just not the rooms where I would think most abuse would occur.

  22. Wouldn’t it be better if aged care facilities became places where residents and their loved ones spent more of their time together. By “more” I don’t mean a hurried weekly visit on Sunday afternoons but providing quality companionship all day every day. Come on, you can do it. The hard work of nursing, personal care etc might be beyond you but spending quality time throughout the day is something anyone can do for someone they love. Come on. When they die you’ll have no regrets. And who knows you might even like it.

  23. I am a nurse in aged care and I hate being on camera, I hate even having my picture taken, so I will be looking into this issue to see whether we can refuse to tend to anyone with cameras in their rooms. I am not comfortable one bit with people watching me from home without my knowledge or consent. And personally I find it disturbing that the family members who put the cameras in, happily watch their loved ones during PAC, pad changes, sponge baths. As an aged care nurse, I cannot stress this enough, if you dont like the care provided, MOVE THEM. If where they are is that horrible you need to put cameras to find evidence and prove neglect then you should be charged with neglect also because you leave them behind each day and go home. If its so bad why leave them there another minute?

  24. It is a terrible thing. Nobody will want to work in aged care . Like a prison

  25. My husband is severely brain damaged, he is in care because he can do almost nothing for himself now. I know his physical needs are met but there have been a few questionable I instances. He has no short term memory so cannot tell me anything. I think we should be able to install a camera for peace of mind. If I could have my husband home I would, I hate the thought of strangers looking after him, even the caring ones are still strangers.

  26. I understand that abuse is something that occurs in aged care, not only to residents but routinely to the aged care workers, however are camera’s the answer given that it may impinge on the Privacy Act, not only to the resident but also the employee. I think that until a rule of law is handed down that advocates this action, that there are many risks and legal implications to the employer, government and the legal guardian’s of the people in the facility.

    Perhaps training and education of both the providers, employees and families could be a first step.

  27. I am an aged care worker and my duty of care is to maintain residents privacy and dignity, by installing camera’s in their rooms is not keeping the residents dignity,i feel this to be very intrusive to the residents. It is sad that their has been a few carers doing the wrong thing, I myself have reported a fellow worker of abuse and he has been terminated for this.. If you look at the many of thousands of care workers to the amount of care workers doing the wrong thing then I consider putting video’s in residents room wrong.

  28. We have permission yo have a camera in my mum’s room in age care . Not allow to point in bedroom. Cannot see in bathroom. My point is if staff doing their job properly tgere should be no drama. We decided this after my mum had a bad fall. Not sent to hospital ubtil 26grs later, dhe had broken nose multiple fracture etc.
    My sister and i have her for weekends and shower her etc. So nothing i see in her bedroom at the home is no different except that i can see the carers that are not giving her the proper care .I am The only one accessing camera. Mum is ok with canera being there, she feels that we are there looking out for her too. Wonder how i can address the problem.

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