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NJ Offers Hidden Cams To Monitor Loved Ones' Nursing Home Treatment

Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino displays a safe care cam during a previous news conference.
Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino displays a safe care cam during a previous news conference. Photo Credit: COURTESY: njtvonline.org

New Jerseyans can now monitor how their loved ones are treated in nursing homes and other institutional care facilities with hidden cameras provided for free by the state.

Requests to borrow Safe Care Cams for use anywhere but in private homes previously was denied.

But on Tuesday, Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Division of Consumer Affairs announced that they'd opened the program to residents who want to use micro-surveillance cameras in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, residences for the developmentally disabled and other care facilities.

"Extending Safe Care Cam’s reach into residential facilities permits more people to monitor how caregivers are treating their loved ones when they think no one is looking," Porrino said.

In another initiative designed to improve patient safety, the state will no longer allow applicants seeking certification as home health aides to begin working in homes before the Board of Nursing has had an opportunity to review the results of their criminal history background checks.

New regulations proposed by the Board will eliminate a rule permitting Certified Home Health Aide (“CHHA”) applicants to work for up 120 days on conditional certifications pending the results of their criminal history background checks. CHHAs must now be fully vetted and certified by the Board before caring for patients.

“At a time when the home healthcare industry is experiencing explosive growth and the issue of patient abuse has become a national concern, New Jersey must do everything it can to ensure the safety of its most vulnerable citizens – the elderly and disabled,” Porrino said.

“By expanding the Safe Care Cam program and eliminating conditional certifications, we’re not only enhancing oversight of caregivers," the attorney general said. "We’re advancing New Jersey’s role as a leader in the nation’s efforts to prevent patient abuse.”

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Want to get a Safe Care Cam? Call (973) 504-6375 and leave a message in a voice mailbox that will be regularly monitored by Division staff responsible for the program's day-to-day operation. Or call the Division on its toll-free line and follow the voice prompts to leave a message: 1-800-242-5846 .

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The Safe Care Cam program was launched last December to address New Jersey’s growing concerns about patient abuse. Those fears, being played out across the nation, have been fueled by increased media accounts of caregivers caught on hidden cameras physically or verbally assaulting innocent patients and residents.

Recognizing the growing role that surveillance equipment plays in protecting patients from abuse, as well as the fact that quality cameras can run as high as $300 each, Porrino and the DCA launched the Safe Care Cam program to make cameras and memory cards available on loan for free to New Jersey residents who suspect their loved ones are being mistreated or neglected by an in-home caregiver.

To protect the integrity of the program, the Division is not disclosing how many cameras it purchased for the Safe Care Cam program, or how many are currently in use around the state.

Requests for the equipment have been steady and the feedback from participants positive, authorities said.

One woman who borrowed the camera to monitor her mother’s in-home care said she had looked into purchasing a “Nanny Cam” but found the cost prohibitive.

Although the state-funded safe cam showed that her mother was not being mistreated, one of the aides was “whisking” the elderly woman out of bed instead of using the appropriate body mechanics, authorities said.

The correct procedure was kindly explained to the aide, and her mother’s care improved, she said.

The Safe Care Cam provided “insight to what really goes on when nobody is supposedly watching” and gave her family reassurance that their mother was receiving the care they had hoped and expected she would, the woman said.

LEARN MORE: Program Loans Surveillance Cameras to Record Possible Home Health Care Abuse (NJTV)

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