Are Granny Cams Legal?

Posted by Sheri Tucker, M.S., J.D.Jul 09, 20210 Comments

Two scenarios for electronic monitoring Seniors and Elderly parents exist.  One happens when children place hidden cameras in their parents' own home. Often adult children view cameras as an electronic babysitter in the home. The camera is used as a safety measure or even to prevent elder abuse.  The other scenario is monitoring the care of a loved one living in a nursing facility.  Electronic surveillance with granny cams is a hot topic in eldercare issues. The question to consider is this: Are Granny Cams legal?

What is a Granny Cam?

Most people know about a nanny cam – a camera set up to see how the babysitter treats your kids while you are away.   In recent years, granny cams gained popularity.  A granny camera is set up in your loved one's room at the nursing home or assisted living facility.  Knowing what's going on behind closed doors could give the senior's family and friends peace of mind.  But are granny cams legal?  If so, what requirements exist?   What are the legal concerns about granny cams?

Granny Cam Concerns

One concern with granny cams is privacy.  When using a granny cam video, it impedes upon the resident's privacy and the confidentiality of any other residents in the room.  Would you want your every move in your residence recorded?  Does having a granny cam ruin or distort the intended home-like atmosphere of the facility?  Knowing that they are continually being recorded may make some residents feel uncomfortable or stressed.
Another concern is the security of the footage.  Undoubtedly, private and vulnerable moments are captured on video, like a resident dressing or completing personal hygiene tasks.  What are the responsibilities of the owner of such footage?  Can it be stored for a period of time?  Also, the video feed must be protected from hackers.  Imagine the horror of seeing your loved one's private footage online or exploited! What is the benefit of electronic monitoring?

What is the benefit of monitoring?

The obvious benefit to having a granny cam installed is that you can monitor for abuse or crimes.  Is the resident getting the care they need and deserve?  Are your parents valuables safe? The footage from granny cams can be invaluable in prosecuting violations, if the state allows the video as evidence.  You can also watch the footage for cues on how to make your senior healthier or more comfortable, such as watching for bad sleep patterns or noticing your loved one doesn't enjoy visits from a particular neighbor. There are a few benefits to balance against concerns. How does this work for aging in place?

Aging in Place and Privacy

Today, Seniors desire to stay in their home for as long as possible with accommodations provided for “Aging in Place.”  Often adult children face a dilemma of caring for a parent or parents diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer's and keeping them in their own home.  The question faced is how to keep the parent safe from wandering out of the home or even living in the home.  The typical suggestion is to put hidden cameras inside the home to monitor activities. Does the parent living in their own home still have a right to privacy?  If so, how does the adult child monitor for safety while protecting privacy?  It's a difficult situation. 

One may place video cams without audio attached to monitor.  If audio is attached, it means that people must be aware of the camera and give permission.  Audio recording without permission is not a legal solution.  Video cams also invade one's privacy in the sanctity of his or her own home.  Another dilemma for in-home monitoring is protecting against video voyeurism.  There is no guarantee about the images recorded and if the cam streams across the Internet, security issues exist.  Granny cams could violate nudity laws, privacy laws, wiretapping and electronic surveillance laws, or HIPAA laws.  To help our loved ones age in place and remain secure with living with progressive dementia and Alzheimer's. poses unique challenges and legal issues.

Nursing Home Worries

When your loved one enters a nursing home or assisted living center, you expect them to be safe.  You expect them to get the care they need in a peaceful environment.  But do you ever wonder what happens when you aren't there?  Is your loved one safe and receiving proper care?  During COVID19, visitation to nursing homes became restricted.  In the aftermath, horror stories about conditions and treatment of residents emerged.  Before the Pandemic and even afterwards, people worried about the quality of care and if the quality declined when no one is watching.  The fear of abuse stressed family members who could not visit, and could not communicate with a beloved family member in a facility. The threat of abuse in a facility is real.

Elder Abuse Statistics

It's important to have solid estate plans in place for our elderly parents and Seniors. Elder abuse can still happen.  Indeed, around 5 million nursing home residents are abused each year.[1]  Elder abuse can come in many forms.  According to the National Center for Victims of Crime[2], the breakdown of types of complaints about elder abuse is as follows:
28% – Physical abuse
22% – Resident-on-resident abuse (physical or sexual)
19% – Psychological abuse
15% – Gross neglect
8% – Sexual abuse
8% – Financial exploitation
How can you better ensure your loved one isn't suffering from these types of abuse at a trusted care facility? Before putting an electronic monitoring system in place, one needs to know if the granny cam is legal.

Are Granny Cams Legal?

There is no federal law banning or allowing granny cams. Video recording without audio is allowable. Some states, enacted laws regarding granny cam use. such as Illinois, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Maryland, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Virginia, and Washington.  Missouri Revised Statute addressing granny cams is titled, “‘Authorized Electronic Monitoring in Long-Term Care Facilities Act'.” MO Rev. Stat. 198.610 Short title; definitions (Missouri Revised Statutes (2021 Edition)).

Missouri Statute

In Missouri, the statute provides for the use of the granny cam in a facility under certain conditions, and restrictions. The statute provides for the use of video to monitor in a nursing facility. The law defines what is meant by video as, “Authorized electronic monitoring', means the placement and use of an electronic monitoring device by a resident in his or her room in accordance with the provisions of sections 198.610.” An electronic device is defined as a “surveillance instrument capable of recording or transmitting audio or video footage of any activity occurring in a resident's room.” A video is allowed to capture images only in a resident's room in a facility. Facility is defined broadly as any nursing facility, intermediate care facility, or assisted living facility under MO Revised Statute 198.006.
Importantly, granny cams may not be installed without consent.  It may be a crime to install a granny cam without permission.  The caretaker of a loved one has personal worries and fears about care in a facility. Still, there is a legal process that must occur before installing a granny cam in a facility.  The statute does not address home granny cams. A person needs permission before violating another's privacy in the home. A person cannot video private places such as bathrooms or a live-in caretaker's bedroom. Before taking steps to install a granny cam, it is important to know if your actions are legal.  Therefore, it is vital to consult an elder law attorney.

Other Solutions

What are some other ways, besides installing a granny cam, to better protect your beloved senior while they reside in a care facility? 
• Make friends with the staff. If you treat them well and they care for you, they may be apt to go the extra mile for your loved one.
• Let the staff know what type of care your loved one needs. Make sure they know what your standards are.
• Talk with administrators about their hiring and employee retention policies. Are criminal background checks conducted on an ongoing basis?  What certifications or educational requirements do staff have? 
• Visit often and at various times to see different staff members. Can't visit due to COVID-19?  
• Communicate with your loved one. Ask specific questions about their care and property.  Let them know they can always come to you with concerns. 
• Talk with other residents if they are willing. What do they notice going on at the facility? Do they have any concerns about the staff?
• Pay attention to your loved one's complaints. Even if a story seems distorted, there may be a certain truth in the narrative.

Your Personal Care Attorney

Caring for our parents and Senior loved ones means dealing with different types of issues related to their care, finances, and health issues.  Sheri Tucker gives personal care in estate planning and elder law.  If you are facing difficult questions for your loved one, book now for a complimentary consultation.