“Granny cams” or family-placed electronic monitoring in a nursing facility have become more commonplace. Cameras are easier to obtain and set up and can easily be linked to one or more family member’s cell phones. With COVID visiting restrictions making it more difficult for families to visit their loved ones in person, more and more people will be considering their options for keeping an eye on their family member living in a long term care facility.
Some states have passed legislation to establish certain regulations or parameters around the use of granny cams in the long term care setting. Others, including Iowa, are considering such legislation. Most states, however, do not have any statutory or regulatory requirements and thus, long term care facilities must determine how to deal with use of such cameras.
The first question a long term care facility must ask is whether it is advisable to have a written policy. If you are in a state with a statute or regulation on granny cams, you likely should have – and may be required to have – a written policy to comply with those requirements. If you are in a state without any statutory or regulatory provisions on electronic monitoring in long term care, your initial reaction may be that having a policy provided to residents and family members will only encourage them to obtain cameras. However, a resident or family member who wants a camera will likely place one anyway, and you may be better off to at least have a set of ground rules for everyone to follow with respect to such cameras.
There are numerous considerations for handling the use of family-placed electronic monitoring in your facility:
If you are operating an assisted living facility, the considerations are slightly different in that the space in which the camera is situated is usually considered more like a personal home and is typically subject to landlord tenant laws. However, some of the same considerations – especially those involving whether the camera is capturing video and audio, ensuring that use of the camera is compliant with federal and state wiretapping and communication interception laws and avoiding fire and other safety hazards with the camera – will need to be addressed.
While these are difficult issues that can vary from state to state, facilities should not avoid this discussion. Granny cameras will likely only increase in use, especially as technology improves and as families tend to live further away from their parents or grandparents who are now living in your facility. A clear policy and transparent communications with families on this issue can actually result in a positive relationship. Families will realize that a facility who is willing to allow them to place a camera must feel confident about the good care that will be provided to their loved ones, and everyone will understand the “rules of the game” when using such cameras.