THE BLOG

Why Surveillance Cameras in Care Homes Are a Bad Idea

24/11/2014 15:26 GMT | Updated 24/01/2015 10:59 GMT

Last week, the social care watchdog, the Care Quality Commission, agreed to publish guidance for the public and care home providers on the use of overt and covert surveillance in care homes.

This move towards surveillance marks a turning point for care homes as distrust of residential care becomes increasingly entrenched in the British consciousness.

Over the past few years, programmes such as Panorama have revealed horrific cases of abuse in care homes through hidden cameras. These have been cases that have shocked the nation and have generated a huge fear in the public of residential care.

Yet there is a massive gap between the reality of what really goes in care homes and people's perceptions.

Recent research from the think tank Demos found over half of people thought they would be at risk of abuse if they went into a care home. However the reality is that council investigations into alleged abuse of adults with care and support needs are most often about incidents reported to have happened in the victim's own home rather than in a care home, according to the latest statistics by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC).

Of course the abuse should not occur at all, but to tar all care homes with the same brush and think that abuse is rife in care homes throughout the UK is clearly wrong.

It is right that care homes should be under scrutiny, but this blackening the name of all care homes means residential care has become something to fear and dread, which is extremely dangerous.

A headline in the papers last week was 'Why I Fear Going into a Care Home' by Michael Palin. He was being interviewed about his role as a care home resident in the new BBC drama Remember Me. He said he believed that keeping people in their own home environment for as long as possible is "really important".

This is obviously right for some, but for many older people, living at home can be a lonely existence. For many the only social interaction they have is when they receive their home care visit, which can be as short as 15 minutes. Recent research by Age UK revealed that around one million older people regularly go an entire month without speaking to anyone and five million older people consider their TV to be their main form of companionship. These are sad statistics and many of these people may find their lives are improved by moving into a care home where they can chat to people and do stimulating activities.

The majority of care home workers are dedicated to their jobs and are a vital source of comfort and support for people in care homes. Yet this denigration of care homes means many are embarrassed to say they work in a care home and this devaluing of the sector prevents them seeing it as a vocation. Putting CCTV into care homes will inevitably result in care home workers feeling even more disenfranchised and demotivated.

Training care home workers should be first and foremost, not surveillance. Research by Alzheimer's Society showed a third of care homes reported their staff being attacked by residents.

Over three-quarters of care home residents have some form of dementia and over half of all people with dementia, experience behavioural symptoms such as depression, delusions, loss of inhibitions or aggression.

Aggressive behaviour often occurs in situations where care staff must assist with very intimate needs like feeding, bathing or toileting, as a person with dementia may be fearful or view this as an invasion of their privacy.

However good dementia training can show care workers how to act in these sort of situations so they don't scare the person or make them feel they are invading their privacy.

When people hear about aggression and violence in care homes, they tend to think of the residents being victimised and abused by care workers, rather than the other way round.

Yet with dementia on the increase, training care home workers on how to work with people with dementia is vital, as empathy and understanding from both the care home worker and the resident will break down barriers and reduce the abuse from both sides.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) needs to be calling for mandatory dementia training for care home workers, instead of focussing on issuing guidance on surveillance which will only further stigmatize care homes and care home workers.