TRENTON – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino and the Division of Consumer Affairs today announced a new program designed to ensure that New Jersey residents who suspect their loved ones are being abused by unscrupulous home health care providers have access to the latest technology in micro-surveillance cameras that can easily be hidden to detect abuse and protect patients.
The “Safe Care Cam” program makes micro-surveillance cameras available for free 30-day loans to anyone who suspects their loved one is being abused or neglected by home health aides or other in-home caregivers who spend long hours alone with a disabled or elderly person. The footage captured by the hidden device will either quell people’s fears or provide them with proof that immediate protective intervention is necessary.
“Anyone who suspects a loved one is being abused by an in-home caregiver should not be left to feel helpless or without recourse,” said Attorney General Porrino. “Cameras don’t lie, and the abuses they’ve revealed are shocking. But a quality micro-surveillance camera is expensive and many people simply can’t afford them. So we’re offering the use of these cameras free of charge to those who wish to confirm that their loved ones are safe and well cared for in their absence. We hope that the Safe Care Cam program will provide peace of mind for family members, while at the same time serving as a strong deterrent and reminder to unscrupulous care providers that we will prosecute their cases aggressively.”
“Our Safe Care Cam program will empower consumers to become their loved-ones’ front-line protectors against abuse and neglect,” said Steve Lee, Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs. “At the first sign of trouble, they can immediately remove their loved one from harm and report the caregiver to the proper authorities.”
Attorney General Porrino unveiled the Safe Care Cam program today at a press conference that included hidden-camera footage of three in-home healthcare providers abusing patients; a 26-year-old bed-bound man on a ventilator who was handled roughly and slapped, a 91-year-old woman suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease who was roughed up while being fed by her caregiver, and an elderly woman who fell to the floor and was ignored by the caregiver sitting beside her.
The shocking footage underscores the mission behind Safe Care Cam - to address the public’s growing concern about caregiver abuse as more and more consumers choose in-home care as a more-affordable alternative to the escalating cost of placing elderly, disabled, or infirm family members in long-term facilities or nursing homes.
For most people, choosing an in-home caregiver is an important decision fraught with concern that the person they’ve hired, no matter how qualified, will mistreat their loved one. And with secretly recorded video of abuse gaining circulation in news accounts and on social media, more and more people are taking a close look at whom they have hired.
In New Jersey, the growing demand for in-home care has been answered primarily by the state’s Certified Homemaker-Home Health Aides (CHHAs), who work under the direction of registered professional nurses to provide health-related or personal care services in the homes of clients who are elderly, sick, or disabled. In the last decade the number of CHHAs certified to work in the state has increased from 26,618 to 43,506. As the number of CHHAs grows, and more homes open their doors to them, the potential for abuse and other patient-related crimes increases.
While the vast majority of CHHAs provide compassionate, appropriate care, data indicates that incidents of disciplinary actions against them have been rising. Since January, the State Board of Nursing, which oversees CHHAs, has revoked, suspended, or otherwise disciplined nearly 300 CHHAs for alleged criminal activities on or off the job. Those alleged crimes include criminal sexual contact, assault, theft, and stolen identity. Those statistics represent a significant increase from 2015, when close to 200 CHHAs were disciplined, and from 2014, when nearly 140 were disciplined. While not all of the alleged crimes were committed against patients, they indicate a rise in dangerous behaviors that could put patients at risk.
More and more, individuals who lodge complaints against homecare providers are buttressing their allegations with hidden camera footage, evidence that greatly increases the chance of substantiating allegations of wrongdoing.
Recognizing that quality cameras can run as high as $300, Attorney General Porrino and the Division initiated the Safe Care Cam program to make cameras and memory cards, purchased by the Division, available on loan to consumers free of charge.
Individuals seeking to participate in the Safe Care Cam program must provide contact and residence information, a copy of their driver’s license or other identification, and personally pick up the camera after undergoing a brief training by Division investigators. Cameras will be available for pickup at Division offices in either Newark or Cherry Hill, and will be loaned for up to 30 days, unless a reasonable request for additional time is made to the Division.
Once the cameras are in place, it will be up to participants to review the recorded footage, which can be played on a television or computer with adapters provided by the Division. It is up to the participant to decide to report any issues of concern to the Division or other appropriate authorities.
Individuals who wish to participate in the Safe Care Cam program can call 973-504-6375 and leave a message in a voice mailbox that will be regularly monitored by Division staff responsible for the day-to-day operation of the program. Or they can call the Division on its toll-free line below and follow the voice prompts to leave a message.
Patients who believe that they have been treated by a licensed health care professional in an inappropriate manner can file an online complaint with the State Division of Consumer Affairs by visiting its website or by calling 1-800-242-5846 (toll free within New Jersey) or 973-504- 6200.