Are Granny Cams Legal to Use in Nursing Homes?

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on February 2, 2022 in Nursing Home Abuse
Updated on April 24, 2024

video camera in nursing home roomThe pandemic has put negligent nursing homes and caregivers into the limelight, and with good reason. Families, wondering how to ensure the safety of loved ones in long-term care, may look to technology for help. Surveillance cameras or other types of recording gear can help them to keep a closer watch on a loved one. But are granny cams legal to use in nursing homes?

PKSD shares important facts about granny cams in nursing homes, including what legal and privacy issues may arise.

Suspect nursing home abuse? Call PKSD for legal help today. 414-333-3333

What is a Granny Cam?

A granny cam is a live-feed video camera. People sometimes install them to monitor the well-being of an elderly family member in long-term care. These cameras are especially useful to those who are unable to visit their loved ones every day.

Why Put Granny Cams in a Nursing Home?

The sole purpose of installing a granny cam in a nursing home is to help monitor how a loved one is doing. Is he or she being properly cared for? Did he or she suffer a fall? Are caregivers following a regular schedule of care? Family members can also monitor an elderly loved one to ensure he or she is:

  • Not being mistreated or abused by nursing or other caregivers/staff
  • Receiving daily meals, as well as help with eating, as needed
  • Being helped with bathing and other types of daily hygiene
  • Not neglected or left sitting in a wheelchair or soiled clothing
  • Receiving medication as prescribed by his or her physician

Granny cams can make it harder for potential abusers, thieves and sexual predators to get away with their criminal acts. That said, if you do decide to monitor your loved one, what type of camera should you get?

Types of Hidden Cameras Commonly Used for Live Feed Transmission

There are various types of surveillance cameras that may be used for this purpose. Many are small enough to place in regular household objects, such as a clock or bookcase. The same concept can be used for a resident’s room in a nursing home.

Surveillance cameras, depending on the type and quality of the camera, may transmit live feed in color or black and white. Some cameras may record in color in brighter light and then switch to black and white in lower light situations.

Granny – or nanny cams, as they are also called – may be exposed or hidden. There are four standard types of surveillance cameras that may help you monitor your elderly loved one, including:

  • IP Security Cameras
  • Hard-wired cameras
  • Wireless surveillance cameras
  • Memory card (SD) Security Camera

What you may or may not be able to use in your loved one’s nursing home room depends on various factors. For instance, whether there is an available Wi-Fi or a hardwired internet connection.

Is it Legal to Install Granny Cams in Nursing Homes?

Granny cams are not legal everywhere. Currently, granny cams are only legal in the following states:

  • Illinois
  • New Mexico
  • Kansas
  • Louisiana
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • Oklahoma
  • Texas
  • Washington

Hidden cameras in New Jersey and Wisconsin may be used, but there are restrictions:

  • You may only record video. Audio recordings currently violate federal wiretap laws
  • Do not install any cameras in a resident’s bathroom or a caregiver’s bedroom – this is against the law
  • At least one party – i.e. the resident – is aware that they are being recorded

Iowa Legislation on Granny Cams Advances With No Opposition

All three members of Iowa’s Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee agreed to advance a bill allowing video surveillance inside nursing home residents’ rooms. The bill, House File 537, advanced with no opposition from nursing home industry lobbyists.

This is a notable shift, as industry lobbyists previously said they would fight this kind of legislation. In fact, the bill has faced strong opposition from the nursing home industry for several years.

House File 537 prohibits nursing homes from banning the use of “granny cams.” These devices offer a live video feed of individual residents’ rooms, with the goal of increasing safety and accountability. Cameras would also be allowed in shared rooms with consent from roommates. The bill would require facilities to display a notice of the cameras to inform visitors and staff.

Brent Willett from the Iowa Health Care Association said the IHCA was neutral on the bill in 2023 and will remain neutral in 2024. Willet also said the IHCA would like the opportunity to work with the committee on the bill as the legislative process continues.

Rep. Joel Fry from Osceola thanks the nursing home lobby for their cooperation. “We’ve had some tough conversations over the last few years on this bill,” he said. However, Fry said the goal for legislators and lobbyists is still safe, high-quality health care for nursing home residents.

Other Legal/Privacy Issues That May Arise

There is no doubt that being able to monitor a loved one with a live-feed granny cam provides peace of mind. Families can ensure their loved ones are not being abused or neglected. Is your loved one being turned according to schedule to avoid bedsores? Are caregivers handling your loved one using proper techniques to prevent causing physical harm? Staying informed in this way is especially important for families of residents with mental health conditions, such as Alzheimer’s or dementia. These residents are often unable to vocalize when they have been harmed.

That said, despite knowing your loved one is safe and well cared for, there are other privacy issues that may arise. For instance:

  • Private conversations of others who come to visit your loved one
  • Residents – or their roommates – who want privacy while changing or bathing
  • Residents who do not want to be videoed or recorded for any reason
  • Acts of consensual relations that your loved one may want to stay private

Before You Install a Granny Cam in a Nursing Home

There are some important steps and legal/privacy issues to consider before installing a granny cam in your loved one’s room:

  • Review the nursing home agreement to be sure installing a camera does not violate your loved one’s contract
  • Discuss your intentions with the nursing home administrators
  • Get the consent of your loved one and his or her roommate, if applicable
  • Find out what times your loved one may want the video off, such as for dressing or bathing
  • Inform your loved one what you will do with anything that is recorded

While granny cams may help protect your loved one, they are not a substitute for being there in person. Regular in-person visits can help to keep your loved one feeling like part of the family and not forgotten.

Are There Other Ways to Protect Loved Ones in Nursing Homes?

There are a few other ways to protect your elderly loved one in a nursing home. These steps can be taken whether or not you also install a granny cam in your loved one’s room.

  • Minimize your loved one’s isolation: Take advantage of FaceTime and other technologies to stay in daily touch with your loved one. While not comparable to a 24/7 camera, you still get a sense of his or her physical and mental state.
  • Review medical records: If you have power of attorney for your loved one – or he or she consents – you can request copies of your loved one’s medical records. Be sure to ask for a digital version as getting paper copies is really expensive. Once you have these records, you can compare that documentation with what you were told by the nursing home. If there are a lot of significant differences, including injuries you were not told about, you may have reasons for concern.
  • Visit at different times and show up without giving prior notice: Visiting unannounced in this way can give you a more realistic idea of the care your loved one receives on a daily basis.

Do You Suspect Nursing Home Negligence or Abuse? PKSD is Ready to Help

PKSD has decades of experience handling injury cases for elderly residents suffering from nursing home abuse or neglect. Our experienced nursing home abuse lawyers are committed to holding at-fault parties accountable for their negligence.

If your loved one has been injured in his or her nursing home, we are prepared to help. We take cases in Wisconsin, Iowa and New Mexico. If we represent you, we will work tirelessly on your behalf, seeking maximum compensation for the harm your loved one suffered. There is no cost to learn about your legal options, so no risk to you. If you have a case and decide to move forward with our firm, there is also nothing for you to pay upfront or while we work on your case. We only get paid when your case resolves and you receive compensation. Call today to get started.

Millions Recovered for Our Clients. 414-333-3333

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