Protecting the Elderly with Nursing Home Cameras | NBC 7 San Diego

Protecting the Elderly with Nursing Home Cameras

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    Families and a local nursing home want to protect loved ones by installing cameras in patient bedrooms. But NBC 7 Investigates Mari Payton has learned why the state is telling them 'No' for now. (Published Tuesday, Feb. 3, 2015)

    Video cameras capture reality and from police officer body cams to nanny cams, they are being used more and more as a way to help provide accountability.

    In California, families and a local San Diego nursing home want to protect loved ones by installing cameras in patient bedrooms, but they are facing a roadblock from the state.

    At 85 years old, Lynn Murphy's health was failing, her memory fading fast. So, in October 2013, her daughter Kathe Murphy put her mother into the Oakmont of Roseville retirement community, near Sacramento.

    "It was close to my house and she could have her cat which was of utmost importance to her,” Kathe said.

    While Lynn was in Oakmont's memory care unit, Kathe said the staff wasn't doing their job. She took photos of her mother's dirty clothes, room and bathroom. She said the staff was supposed to be doing Lynn’s laundry and cleaning her living quarters. Kathe said her mother wasn't being properly taken care of.

    These were issues that Kathe said she knows about first-hand since she worked as a paralegal for 20 years for the Department of Social Services' licensing division -- the same state agency responsible for regulating and licensing elder care facilities in California.

    "I said this is elder abuse. Nobody's done anything,” Kathe said.

    She took her mom out of the facility in April 2014 after she said her mom was put in bed and not checked on for almost 24 hours. Her mother died 3 weeks later.

    “So she was laying there with a dirty diaper with sores on her back for almost 12 hours, and I would come in and find her like that,” Kathe said.

    Kathe reported the case as elder neglect to police who are investigating it, as is DSS's licensing division.

    A DSS inspection report found used gloves on Lynn's nightstand and medication left unsecured in her room. The report also found numerous time lapses in care. Lynn was supposed to be repositioned every two hours, but employee logs show on one overnight shift, almost 12 hours went by without Lynn receiving any care.

    NBC 7 Investigates contacted Oakmont of Roseville for a response to Kathe's allegations and the findings from the state. Their public relations company sent us a statement that said, “We are aware of the family’s complaint. We are sorry this family feels their loved one was not given the experience they expected… We are currently cooperating with the state of California to resolve this matter and are unable to comment further because of the ongoing nature of the complaint investigation process.” Look below to read the complete statement.

    Click here to look up a state licensed elder care facility through the California Department of Social Services.

    Joe Balbas is the co-owner of Vista Gardens, a residential facility for Alzheimer's disease and dementia patients. He said elderly patients in nursing facilities should have the option of having security cameras in their room. He said in Lynn's case, cameras would have been invaluable.

    “The private rooms to me are an area we cannot see, we cannot be there at all times,” said Balbas.

    Under California law, cameras can be used to monitor residents in common areas such as hallways or dining facilities which Vista Gardens uses. The facility also has surveillance cameras in resident rooms, but they sit unused because the state won't give the green light.

    “I believe our roadblock is DSS,” Balbas said. “Although they are supposedly going to be working with us, it's been promises that eventually we will get to it. I know they are busy. We are all busy. This is a very important issue.”

    The Department of Social Services Deputy Director of Public Affairs Michael Weston said the client's right to privacy is a concern for the department.

    “We view these as people’s homes, and we want people to have rights in their own home and balancing that between a business and a residence,” Weston said. “We want to be careful about.”

    Weston said the department has developed proposed guidelines which would allow video cameras in private rooms under specific conditions. He said those guidelines are still being reviewed and expects to release them this spring.

    Kathe, who retired from the DSS in 2014, said cameras shouldn't be mandatory, but an option for concerned families.

    “Cameras don't lie. They really don't. I think if you don't violate the patient's privacy, I would have loved a camera in there. It just gives you security that people are doing their job.”

    Click here to look up a state licensed elder care facility through the California Department of Social Services.

    To file a complaint against a state licensed elder care or child care facility call: 1-844-LET-US-NO.

    Oakmont of Roseville full statement:
    “We are aware of the family’s complaint. We are sorry this family feels their loved one was not given the experience they expected. Our award-winning communities throughout the western United States, including Oakmont of Roseville, have helped us to become one of the most recognized, respected names in senior living. Oakmont of Roseville has been recognized as a leading assisted living provider. We are committed to the seniors who reside in our communities and providing high quality assisted living services. We are currently cooperating with the state of California to resolve this matter and are unable to comment further because of the ongoing nature of the complaint investigation process.”