Are Granny Cams Legal in New York? An Updated Review

Granny cams have proven to be an invaluable tool for deterring and identifying cases of elder abuse in nursing homes and home care settings across the country, however there are important legal and ethical questions families must ask before introducing digital recording devices into an older loved one’s residence.Prevent Elderr Abuse

SelectCare Home Health Care Services of NY believes every client deserves responsible, fully transparent care that puts their safety first and accomplish this through stringent hiring requirements, constant communication with our caregivers and continued education through our in-service programs.  Unfortunately, not all eldercare services and facilities live up to this standard, and the prevalence of elder abuse by caregivers is a deeply troubling trend.

A 2011 study conducted by the The New York State Coalition on Elder Abuse found that of the as many as 76 of every 1,000 New Yorkers 60 or older had experienced some form of abuse, be it financial, physical, sexual, emotional, or cases of caregiver neglect. More alarmingly, this study estimates that for every case of abuse documented by the authorities, as many as 23.5 cases go unreported.

Stop Elder AbuseThese numbers are a serious concern for elderly New Yorkers and their loved ones, but the question remains: What can you do to protect an older loved one from abuse? Read on to learn more about granny cams and whether they might be the right solution for your family.

What is a Granny Cam?

Simply put, a Granny Cam is a discreet camera, usually hidden in some household object that can record long stretches of footage to an online server or an on-board memory card. Newer models include motion sensors and low-light lenses to improve coverage, as well as audio recording options.

While these devices cannot stop abuse on their own, they are a great way to provide an objective view into your love one’s living situation, and can provide irrefutable evidence of wrongdoing if abuse is in fact taking place.

These cameras have become extremely inexpensive in recent years, with most models costing between $30 and $400 per unit.

Granny Cam Ethics

If you believe a loved one is being abused by a family member or other caregiver, there are some things to consider before investing in a camera:

What is the legality of installing a surveillance camera in your state?  Unfortunately, every state has a different stance on this issue, including whether both parties (the client and caregiver) must consent to being recorded, whether you are allowed to record audio as well as video, and whether or not you must post visible warnings to others that there is a camera present.

The best way to answer this question is to speak to your state’s Long Term Care Ombudsman to learn what is permissible in your state.

If your state has no specific laws about surveillance, then the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act (Wiretap Act) typically takes precedence if a caregiver wishes to contest granny camera footage in court. This law specifically governs using a recording device to capture conversations without the consent of both parties. As a result, it can only be applied to granny camera footage that includes audio recordings and might encourage some families to purchase image-only granny cams.

In New York State, a person can be recorded without consent as long as they do not have a reasonable expectation of privacy, such as in a restroom or changing area and the recording is not being made for “ voyeuristic, profitable, defamatory or exploitative purposes,” as per Stephanie’s Law, N.Y. Penal Law §250.50 (2003).  Based on case history in New York State, those working in either a nursing home or as a home caregiver can be recorded legally while performing their job.

Consider the privacy of your loved one’s neighbors.  Many assisted living facilities and nursing homes offer shared rooms, usually with two patients per room.  It’s important to respect the privacy of your loved one’s roommate. You should always speak to them or their patient representative before installing a camera.

Consider the privacy of your loved one.  Remember, a camera placed in a room will record EVERYTHING, not just instances of abuse. It’s very important that the decision to install a camera be one that you and your loved one reach together.  If you are truly concerned that there is abuse, and your loved one is hesitant to give up their privacy, it might be helpful to invite your loved one’s doctor or social worker into the conversation to weigh in.

Consider the privacy of your loved one’s caregivers.  Imagine if you found out you were secretly being recorded while at work.  Although you might not be doing anything wrong, you would probably take some issue with whoever decided to install a camera in your office. It’s important to remember that respect works both ways and that the vast majority of caregivers are compassionate, hardworking people.  To that end, it’s not unreasonable to let a caregiver know that they may be recorded, with an explanation that the device will not only identify abusers, but can also exonerate caregivers who might be wrongly accused of abuse.

Are Granny Cams Legal For Home Caregiving?

While every state takes its own approach to the legality of secret cameras in assisted living facilities and nursing homes, all fifty states agree on one thing: You are always allowed to record within your own home.

To that end, Granny Cams are a great way to provide oversight if your loved one is receiving home care or similar in-home services.

SelectCare understands that inviting a caregiver into your home requires trust, especially if you are new to this type of elder care, and a hidden camera is a great way to ensure that you are working with a reputable agency.  In short, fear of the unknown or a lack of transparency should never be a barrier to your loved one receiving the care that they deserve.

Are Granny Cams Legal In Elder Care Facilities?

While in-home recording is always legal, the issue becomes particularly murky when brought into assisted living and nursing home facilities.

New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer made headlines in 2006 when he revealed hidden camera footage of rampant elder abuse in a pair of upstate nursing home facilities.  Unfortunately, the law is unclear on whether patients and their families can install cameras of their own.

Federal laws do not expressly say whether hidden cameras are allowed in nursing homes.  Federal wiretapping guidelines discourage recording audio and video footage without the consent of all parties involved, however, these laws largely ignore silent surveillance footage.

Because of the vagueness of these statutes, it is recommended that concerned families seek an elder care attorney if they suspect abuse, as a way to safely review their opportunities to legally document mistreatment.

SelectCare hopes you found this article informative.  If you are concerned a loved one is in immediate danger, we recommend you contact the NYC Department for the Aging Elderly Crime Victims’ Program at 212-442-3103. Alternatively, SelectCare’s team of home health care experts can help connect your family with community resources near your loved one for additional counselling and support.  For a general overview of elder abuse, symptoms and warning signs, click here.

SelectCare believes every New Yorker has the right to live a happy, healthy life in their long-time home.  To learn more about SelectCare and how we can help your family, call SelectCare today or request a free home health care guide.