Chicago, IL-Families and state inspectors who suspect misdeeds such as abuse or petty thievery in a nursing home  will take steps to see what is actually going on behind the closed doors of a residents room by using a “ granny cam.” Those “granny cams” can be a great help by exposing abuse and neglect, but some people are critical of their use and say that they actually erode trust between health care workers and their charges.

These “granny cams” are often concealed in objects such as stuffed animals, walls clocks and alarm clocks. A person can easily get a hold of these cameras at a spy store or online and the acts they capture can be shocking.

Take for instance the case of Eryetha Mayberry, a 96 year-old woman suffering from dementia who was living at a nursing home in Oklahoma City. When her daughter put a “granny cam” in her room, they discovered that she was being abused by her caregivers. One would shove rubber gloves in her mouth and another violently tossed her into her bed. Mayberry’s caregivers subjected her to a list of abuses all of which were caught on camera.

Shocked by the treatment of Mayberry; lawmakers Oklahoma recently passed a law which allows families and state investigators to install cameras in the rooms of nursing home residents. They became the third state to pass such a law after Texas and New Mexico and five other states have contemplated similar legislation.

Those who advocated for the rights of residents in long-term care facilities say these cameras are their best line of defense in preventing neglect, abuse and theft. But those who advocate for health care workers say that these cameras are an invasion of the worker’s privacy along with the resident’s other guests and visitors. They are also concerned that “granny cams” also cause the actions of caregivers to be misinterpreted and therefor they could be wrongfully accused of abuse or neglect.

“When you have low-wage health care workers in difficult settings, they feel subjected to scrutiny and attack,” said Anthony Caldwell, a spokesman for the Service Employees International Union District 1199, explained to the New York Times. “Secret surveillance takes away from their professionalism. It’s unfortunate and creepy and wrong.”

In most cases, when a person puts a “granny cam” in their loved one’s room, they only have to get the permission of the resident if they are mentally capable of making that decision. But they don’t have to notify the staff or the resident’s guests which those who advocate for privacy says these hidden cameras are unethical and can legally problematic.

They have suggested that nursing home staff should be notified that a hidden camera is in use in a room. While this may prevent future incidents, it won’t help catch the staff members who are prone to abuse and neglect. They may no longer abuse the resident who has a camera, but those who don’t have a one could now become their victims.

The fact is that cameras are everywhere; people who work in retail stores are constantly being taped. Traffic and surveillance cameras catch our every move so why is privacy such an issue when it comes to protecting the elderly?