The conversation about video surveillance in aged care needs to consider all perspectives on what it means for both residents and staff, writes Dana Sawyer.

The discussion about closed circuit television monitoring, which is also known as video surveillance, in aged care bedrooms has come to the forefront after a number of cases highlighted at the aged care royal commission.

This includes one of an aged care employee allegedly attempting to strangle a resident in his bedroom in South Australia and an alleged sexual assault of an aged care resident by a fellow resident.

At the same time, the South Australian government has launched a 12-month trial of CCTV cameras in the bedrooms of aged care resident in state-owned aged care homes.

Dana Sawyer

The aged care industry in response to this discussion has predominately focused on the issue of privacy and consent for both residents and staff. While these are valid considerations, I believe more CCTV in aged care can result in more protection for both residents and aged care staff.

A protection for residents and staff

In my view, expanded video surveillance in aged care homes creates more transparency, where everyone knows what is going on and helps to eliminate the he-said-she-said debate.

Deciding what actually happened can be difficult when there are people involved who can’t communicate as well as they would like or who are experiencing cognitive decline. CCTV is a way to ensure they are protected.

There are also occasions when it’s aged care staff who need to be protected from residents. For example, an aged care worker could report being hit by a resident or a resident might genuinely fall but accuse a nurse of pushing them. Video cameras would record what happened.

For family members knowing there was footage of an incident to show what really happened is peace of mind for them. Or in some cases, as we have seen in South Australia, there have been instances of abuse by residents towards other residents.

Expanding the use of video surveillance is not about invading people’s privacy, instead it is about ensuring transparency. It’s about supporting the elderly but also the family and the staff entrusted with their care.

Privacy needs are of course a consideration. However, privacy can be maintained in many ways and needs to be reconsidered in today’s aged care world.

Aged care staff’s right to privacy is one argument I hear against the use of CCTV in aged care bedrooms. This argument falls flat in a number of areas.

Firstly, what is privacy at work? Many communal areas of aged care homes are currently fitted with video cameras so staff are already being filmed in these areas. We are also frequently captured by cameras in our city streets even though we don’t consent to that filming.

The more important discussion should be about the privacy of the residents, because it’s their bedroom after all.

Rather than discussing the issue of whether video surveillance should exist, let’s look at how the footage is going to be used and what can be done with it.

For example:

  • How long can the footage be stored for?
  • In what circumstances can it be accessed?
  • How is it going to be stored?
  • Who stores it?

There may also be ways of monitoring in areas such as bathrooms that maintain privacy and dignity for the resident, such as capturing audio only or video footage with blurred vision.

A useful part of the solution

While there are many benefits for residents, families and aged care staff of video surveillance in aged care bedrooms, it is reasonable for a resident to say they don’t want CCTV in their bedroom.

The final decision should always be with the resident or their family.  I feel an opt-out system is better than an opt-in one.

We still have many residents in aged care who have full capacity and live a full life with all the elements of personal relationships and therefore have every right to say I don’t want this.

Instead of governments or aged care providers dictating that surveillance must be used in every aged care bedroom in Australia, let’s ensure that it is always provided as an option.

However, it should ultimately be up to the resident, who gives fully-informed consent when they transition into an aged care home whether it is used or not.
CCTV in aged care bedrooms is essentially about peace of mind for everyone involved in the aged care residence, including the resident who may not be able to speak for themselves, and their family. It is also for the health and wellbeing of aged care workers.

Dana Sawyer is chief executive officer of My CarePath, a national consultancy providing advice to consumers about aged care options.

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8 Comments

  1. Please do not put cameras in resident,s rooms. I am a resident in aged care and would feel it as an intrusion of privacy and disrespectful more appropriate supervision of staff and awareness of problematic attitudes of staff is more needed Rosemary Blayney

  2. If you have family in a facility and you don’t trust them (with the decision you made) then you need to move your family member to another facility.
    If you don’t trust the facility then move, easy to do. 10% vacancy across the country.

  3. I believe to stop elder abuse cameras need to be installed. Yes there is a privacy concern.
    The abuse will continue if our government does not step up.
    I challenge Scott Morrison and Minister Colebeck. to stand up and have a zero tolerance to abuse. We will all be old one day and vulnerable.

    Please stop the abuse.

  4. The fundamental question should be, if I were in my own home in my bedroom would I want CCTV in there? After all statistically I am at more risk at home from assault than in an aged care facility (look it up).
    No one would argue that these things do not happen there and should never be allowed to happen, however this is not the answer.
    If we go down this pathway cameras are going to have to be installed in our homes, hospitals, schools, daycare/family day care centres, etc.
    I am reminded of the book written by Ben Elton called ‘Famous ‘, very chilling hopefully not prophetic view of the future.

  5. Has the trial really commenced? As at November 2019 it was announced a new technology partner was being put out to tender. Really disappointed to find out Care Protect did not proceed.

  6. What is it about living in an aged care facility that results in people apparently wanting to know everything that goes on there?

    In an age of ‘person centered care’, (I highlight this term to show my complete rejection of this ridiculous concept) where we apparently want to normalize the experience of living in care – after all this place is your home – we, at the same time, want to strip away what is unique to both being a person and living in your own home. The simple fact of having a private space into which no-one may intrude.

    Of course, our intrusion is for your own good.

    What is it about being old and vulnerable that results in people wanting to have CCTV to watch you in the most intimate of social spaces, the bedroom?

    Well, we want to protect you from assault and abuse. We want to protect vulnerable people, most who have some form of cognitive impairment, from assault and exploitation and, make no mistake, these things do exist in residential aged care. We have all seen the awful video evidence of instances of abuse.

    So, if we want to protect vulnerable people in our society – that is those who can’t protect themselves, let’s be really up front and honest about it. I suggest the following:

    CCTV in the homes of people who have a known record of abusing their children.
    CCTV in the homes of domestic violence perpetrators.
    Don’t worry, we can blur the images.

    Any problems with that? If you do have a problem, then what is it about being old that people can do things to you they wouldn’t dream of doing if you are not old?

    Just sayin!

  7. I am in support of cameras in nursing home rooms. CCTV cameras are everywhere in our community and I feel if we have staff having to support our most vulnerable members of the community we need to know both staff and seniors are protected. Most of the general community are observed at work on a daily basis, in offices, supermarkets and our public servants, why do we feel that our aged care workers shouldn’t be on CCTV? if they complete their job under the Aged care standards and treat each person with dignity and respect then they should have no issue.

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