Thursday 26 April 2012

Eldercare and Surveillance in Nursing Homes

One of my mother-in-law's best friends was a woman called Jean Holden, or "Mrs. Holden", as we always knew her.  Mrs. Holden was a smiley woman with a sing-song laugh and perfect posture.  Mr. Holden, Alec, was always by her side until he passed away, leaving Jean to live out her old age without her beloved spouse to lean on.  The Holdens were natives of Montreal whose children grew up with my husband and his siblings.  The two families were very close.

I knew that the Holdens had a daughter called Janet, but I had never met her.  I knew that Mrs. Holden had tried to live out her old age in Montreal, because for a time she lived in the same seniors residence as my mother.  But residents at my Mum's home must be fully independent and Mrs. Holden's health took a turn for the worse.  So, she moved to London, Ontario to be closer to her daughter Janet.

Occasionally, I receive messages via my website from readers of my book.  A few months ago, I received a message from Janet Holden Brumell, Jean's daughter, and we began a correspondence about Jean's tribulations at the end of her life at a nursing home in London.  Jean had fallen a number of times, a fact denied by administrative at the home and that's when Janet decided to take action.  She placed a hidden camera in her mother's room and began to watch the footage which proved to be alarming.

CTV did a story on Mrs. Holden and Janet's struggle to have closed circuit cameras in Ontario Long Term Care facilities.  I was shocked when I saw this report.  Janet tells me that she continues to fight for the right of patients' families to place cameras in the rooms of their relatives in nursing homes.  Do safety concerns outweigh privacy concerns in the lives of vulnerable people in care?  I think they do.   Should health care professionals be frightened by this level of transparency and scrutiny?  No, I don't think they should.  However, cameras are just one tool for transparency and accountability and in our family, we choose to have a personal support network of friends and family who visit often (most times on a daily basis) and on days we don't visit, we telephone.  I have a good gut feeling about the trust I have in the current arrangements we have for my mother and for my son.  But if I didn't, I would be asking Janet Holden Brumell which brand of camera she recommends.  If families want a camera in the room of their elderly parent in care, I believe they should have one.

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