Electronic Monitoring of Loved Ones – have we gone too far?

The April edition of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys News Magazine contained an interesting article about the ability of families to use electronic monitoring in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.  It noted that so called “granny cams” may become commonplace because of the easy availability of the technology and the greater acceptance of widespread surveillance in society in general.  Texas was the first state to enact legislation specifically entitling a nursing home resident of his or her guardian to utilize electronic monitoring.  Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Maryland followed suit.  In August, the General Assembly of Illinois passed similar legislation.  The state’s Attorney General indicated that her office had been receiving complaints from nursing home residents and families concerned for the relatives’ care and security as well as concerns about exploitation and undue influence. The legislation allows for audio and video electronic monitoring devises in the resident’s room; however, any roommate must consent.  The recordings are admissible into evidence in any civil or criminal proceeding and there are misdemeanor and felony penalties for any person or entity that intentionally hampers, obstructs, tampers with or destroys a recording or monitoring device.

Nevada currently has no specific legislation addressing this issue. While monitoring would certainly assist in addressing concerns of families, it could constitute a substantial invasion of privacy of their loved one.  Families should be aware that  Nevada law prohibits any person from intruding on the privacy of another by listening to, monitoring, or recording by any mechanical, electronic, or other listening devices a private conversation. Nevada law also bars the disclosure of the conversation unless authorized to do so by one of the parties to the conversation (NRS 200.650). As a result, without further clarification, electronic monitoring may be inappropriate.  Anyone contemplating monitoring should also consider the problems that arise if a loved one is suffering from dementia or other cognitive impairments and is unable to consent to monitoring.  The most recent Census reflected that Nevada’s citizens over 65 constituted approximately 11% of our population.  Interim projections estimate that between 2000 and 2030, Nevada’s 65 and older population will increase over 260 percent.  Undoubtedly this is a topic which bears further consideration by seniors, families, social workers and legislators as more of our population become residents of skilled nursing and assisted care communities.