Keeping An Eye On The Caregivers

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One half of all older Americans will spend some time in a nursing home, one quarter of which have been cited for causing harm to patients. CBS News Correspondent Vince Gonzales reports one state is debating an unprecedented measure that both protects patients and gives their loved ones peace of mind.

Abuse of the elderly has become such a concern that Maryland is considering a law that would allow 24-hour video monitoring in nursing homes.

"I have witnessed abuse and neglect. The worst part is what I haven't seen and what I can only imagine." says Maryland lawmaker Susan Hecht. Letting families put cameras out in the open, she says, will prevent the kind of abuse her mother suffered.

"I don't want to catch people at abuse and neglect. I want them not to do it," Hecht declares.

But the nursing home industry warns that videotaping can "encroach on dignity and may erode privacy." That's the view of Charles Roadman, President of the American Health Care Association, who says, "In my view, if a family believes that they need a camera, I will tell you the first thing they need to do is they need to remove that patient from that home."

Many families don't have that choice, especially if they want to keep loved ones close to home.

Becky Hallen and her family installed a hidden camera that caught nurse's aides abusing her mother-in-law. Viewing the tape later, she comments, "They throw her instead of sitting her in softly and they're laughing at her."

The home settled a lawsuit for $2 million. The aides were fired. In another case, a nurse's aide was sentenced to six months after video revealed her repeatedly striking a paralyzed 99-year-old man. That incident took place in a private residence, not in a nursing home.

Thor Hallen, Becky's son, learned that what you don't see on tape also matters. "We watched the tape for an entire day and there was no one checking on her or anything."

Now, a new generation is already under video surveillance. Daycare centers use Internet-connected cameras so parents can check on their children from work. But it could be some time before the newest technology is used to monitor the oldest and most vulnerable Americans.

  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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