It’s distressing to read news stories such as this: about abuse of elderly and vulnerable people in care homes. Thankfully it’s relatively rare, but it should be non-existent. There will always be those tempted to abuse their power over the weak and vulnerable, and no amount of background checking can prevent some of those with such tendencies from entering the caring professions. Indeed some people may not even be aware of this tendency within them until they are exposed to a situation where it can potentially manifest.
If you accept that this is the case, then the only recourse is to ensure that there is very little possibility of ill-treating patients and getting away with it. We know from recent trials that the use of body-cams in the police service reduces the use of violence and number of public complaints against the police dramatically, and indeed many forces are now rolling them out widely. What’s intriguing is that the improvement appears when as few as 10% of officers are wearing them.
So now imagine that in every patients’ room in a care home is a device like Kraydel insight, equipped with a camera. Imagine that it can be configured to record automatically when triggered by movement or by loud noises such as raised voices or cries of pain or for help,. Imagine that staff, or family members, have been given permission to activate the camera remotely whenever they want some reassurance that everything is ok. Imagine that a bright blue light comes on when it’s active. Imagine that it can also play an audio message to make it clear that it’s recording. I don’t think we even need to run a trial to know that this will have a dramatic effect: we’re all on our best behaviour when we think we’re being observed. The system also protects the care-providers themselves against unfounded claims of ill-treatment, which sadly can arise from confused and disturbed patients. What’s the downside? – well, when I suggest this approach someone will always raise the issue of privacy: who can view this data? how do you ensure that some weird individual doesn’t hijack the system and stare at your mother in her nightclothes? The answer is that, to a very great extent we CAN make these systems secure, and detect and plug loopholes as they are found, but ultimately there is less harm done by a weirdo looking at my mother while she watches TV, then by a sadistic care-worker who thinks no-one will ever know about their verbal or physical cruelty.