Installing cameras in the bedrooms of aged care residents might catch some cases of abuse, but what would the cost be?

If we are to truly respect the autonomy and dignity of older people, surely we should allow them the “last bastion of privacy” – the bedroom.

Mounting pressure to instal cameras in aged care facilities

Over the last few months, cases of abuse in aged care facilities have come to light only because concerned staff or family have secretly installed video cameras in residents’ bedrooms.

In these cases, police have turned a blind eye to the fact that the cameras are being used illegally.

But the matter has sparked a debate about whether or not we should instal more cameras in aged care facilities; and in fact, should it be law that cameras be installed in every residents’ room to help stamp out abuse in aged care?

Aged Care Minister Ken Wyatt recently said he was open to the idea of having more cameras in aged care.

Cameras are not the answer, dementia expert says

Colin McDonnell, Dementia Excellence Practice Leader with Scalabrini, told HelloCare he doesn’t believe that using cameras in aged care is the answer to reducing elder abuse.

Having cameras in a resident’s bedroom is an infringement on their rights, he says.

“We argue on one hand that there should be an increase in agency, autonomy, dignity and choice by the Minister of Ageing, the quality agency with the new standards, and the Department of Health – for example, you have a right to choose when you can get up, when you have a shower, or if you want to play bingo or not.

“But you are not allowed privacy and intimacy, including sleeping in the same bed, and you will have cameras to watch you,” said Mr McDonnell.

“Would you want you mother and father to be filmed in their bedroom?,” he said.

Sex in aged care

Though some may find the topic awkward, many older people still experience sexual desire and needs, and that doesn’t stop when they enter aged care.

According to Mr McDonnell, “It’s happening.”

Proof lies in the fact that rates of sexually transmitted infections among older people are on the rise.

In the US, between 2007 and 2011, chlamydia infections among those over 65 increased by 31 per cent, and rates of syphilis rose by 52 per cent.

While some older people still want to have sex, others simply want intimacy and skin-to-skin contact.

Some families, and even some aged care residences, go so far as to have sex workers visit older people who are craving intimacy, the human touch, and, even, sex.

A study in the UK by a research team for the Older People’s Understandings of Sexuality, found that, for people between the ages of 50 and 92 years, for some sex was not important, but for others, especially those with a partner, sex was “very” or “extremely” important.

Who’s watching the film?

The matter of who should be allowed to watch footage filmed in a resident’s bedroom is also a matter that must be carefully considered, said Mr McDonnell.

“If a female chooses not to be showered by a male because of her religion or simple dignity, should she be told she will be watched on camera by a male? Sounds wrong to me,” he said.

Cameras won’t stop elder abuse

Mr McDonnell said putting cameras in aged care residences won’t stop elder abuse because many cases happen at home. Negligence and financial abuse can all very easily occur at home, he said.

The location of the cameras is also a matter to consider, because abuse won’t always happen in bedrooms. Cameras would need to be installed in every room to stamp out abuse, said Mr McDonnell.

“You don’t need cameras”

The bedroom is the “last bastion of privacy”, said Mr McDonnell. Though society might not be comfortable admitting it, older people are still masturbating and having sex, and we must respect their right to do so.

“If someone has a reason to suspect abuse, it’s always been the standard (to put a camera in the room),” he said.

“There are proven ways to track elder abuse, and you don’t need cameras,” he said.

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