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What is a Granny Cam?

By M. Haskins
Updated May 16, 2024
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Granny cam, also known as granny-cam and grannycam, is a popular term for a camera that is set up to monitor elderly people and the care they are receiving. The term usually refers to a hidden camera that records or provides a live feed of elderly people either in their own home or in a nursing home facility. Those installing a granny cam are often relatives of the elderly person, and install the camera to uncover neglect or elder abuse by caregivers. The installation of hidden cameras has been criticized, especially by some in the nursing home industry who believe hidden cameras are an invasion of privacy for staff and residents in nursing homes. Proponents of this technology instead consider the granny cam a necessary tool to prevent and discover abuse.

A granny cam is commonly a camcorder, meaning it is a video camera and video recorder in one. It is often connected to the Internet, enabling real-time monitoring from another location. Granny cams can also be self-contained cameras, meaning they are not connected to the Internet, and store recorded data on a memory card or similar device. So-called complete surveillance systems are sometimes used as granny cams, and usually include a digital video recorder, several cameras, and monitors.

Similar to so called nanny cams that are used to monitor child care for small children, granny cams are used to monitor the care of vulnerable people who are sometimes unable to properly communicate with others. The laws and regulations applying to the use of granny cams vary in different jurisdictions. Visible cameras are often legal, if the elderly person and other people being recorded consent to their use, and some care facilities even use their own cameras to provide peace of mind and security for the elderly and their families.

Using a granny cam in areas where privacy can reasonably be expected, such as a bathroom and bedroom, is more problematic, especially if the camera is also hidden. In many places, installing hidden cameras without the consent of the individuals being recorded is illegal and considered an invasion of privacy. Cameras that record sound can be especially problematic, because of laws against illegal wiretapping and eavesdropping. In a nursing home environment, a hidden granny cam in a private room can be considered an invasion of the elderly person's and the staff's privacy. Getting consent from the elderly person being monitored, and from caregivers, is one way to avoid legal issues.

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Discussion Comments
By anon960585 — On Jul 11, 2014

In the state I reside in, it is legal to have a granny cam. I will be looking into this.

By anon928278 — On Jan 27, 2014

@anon297447: The laws may vary on this, but I don't believe it's legal to place a secret microphone in your mother's bedroom in a facility. A police detective investigating allegations of nursing home abuse might be able to get a warrant to install a recording device, but a private citizen could be sued for invasion of privacy and illegal wiretapping.

If you're truly concerned about your mother's caretakers, then you might have to document every unexplained injury she gets while she's in the facility. Take pictures of bruises or cuts or whatever. Write down anything she says about the staff, like not getting a hot meal that morning or not getting a response to a call button.

By anon341316 — On Jul 10, 2013

I visit my mother in her nursing home daily and over the past three weeks have found several different instances of suspicious problems. There were injuries not documented that no one could explain. I had cameras on my mom from the moment I started caring for her to be sure that I and the staff I hired always knew if she needed help or assistance. I told them I had cameras, no less. When I moved her to the nursing home because her needs changed, I asked about installing my cameras and was told in no uncertain terms: no!

Now after having to go to the Director of Nursing to discuss the problems I found that I had not been informed of (thank goodness I check Mother over myself all the time), I am going to investigate ways to monitor Mother more closely.

I had many things in place to keep "eyes" on Mother and I still had problems, plus the fact that she seems uneasy around some of the CNA's. By the way, the nursing home acknowledged that they "needed to do better" and "staff had been reprimanded." I am not real forgiving anymore. I carry my phone there constantly and I take pictures of anything that concerns me and I will be researching technology to further protect her.

There is no moral high ground when you need to protect your family, especially when they are helpless and unable to take care of themselves!

By anon316466 — On Jan 28, 2013

Just found out a granny cam is being installed where I work. While in many ways I think it is a good idea to protect the patient, I have many issues with it.

First of all, everyone acts differently when being watched. If someone is abusive, unless they are stupid, they will hide it. But for those of us who are not, it will also change the relationship we have developed with the client. I will no longer share personal information about my life and will no longer share private and personal feelings or thoughts with my patient. We will not be as close due to this. I will not be as relaxed and comfortable, knowing every movement and word is being overheard. It is the personal relationship you build with the person that is the most helpful when caring for them. If I wanted someone looking over my shoulder every minute, I would have worked for Walmart.

By anon297447 — On Oct 16, 2012

Is it legal to put a secret microphone in my mother's care home bedroom?

By anon280986 — On Jul 21, 2012

I believe a granny cam should be permitted when the family has concerns and discusses it with the agency providing caregiver help, to help the caregiver to use his or her best discretion and common sense to provide for the safety and health of the elderly person.

The elder needs a caregiver who can use their best discretion and common sense so the elder doesn't suffer extra safety and health issues!

By Bertie68 — On Jun 19, 2011

I know that the majority of people who care for the elderly are actually very caring and conscientious. Unfortunately, it is a fairly low-paying job that usually doesn't require high-level skills. So, some of the jobs are filled by those who just need a job and don't have the interest and patience to care for the elderly and disabled.

With a certain number of care-takers, there is a risk to the patients. Abuse and mistreatment do happen. I think granny cams will be used more frequently in the future.

By wander — On Jun 19, 2011

@Charred - I don't think it is entirely fair that you think that everyone who has a loved one in institutionalized is being irresponsible by turning to granny cams to 'spy' on their loved ones. Often the elderly are placed in nursing homes because they require much more medical care than the family can provide, or that they can afford in their own homes.

My grandmother was very sick and we discovered that she had developed gangrene because a wound on her foot wasn't being properly cleaned and cared for. I was horrified and wished we had been able to watch from afar at what was going on day to day in her room.

The fact is, family can't always be there 24/7 to provide care so we pay people to do this for us. That is being responsible for our loved ones.

Trusting the people we hire to care for them is one thing, but some people just don't deserve that trust. We had her at what we thought was a well-respected nursing home. I think granny cams monitored by families would have put a bit more accountability in place for the nursing home staff.

By lonelygod — On Jun 18, 2011

I believe that whenever you are leaving the care of a loved one in the hands of a stranger, no matter how well certified they are, you should have the right to monitor the care. I think there is nothing wrong with granny cams.

Since there have been numerous cases of nursing home neglect and outright abuse of the elderly, leaving a vulnerable person in such a position without overseeing things is not a good idea.

While some people think that this is some sort of an invasion of the privacy of the worker, I completely disagree. They have CCTV in hospitals, and probably at your workplace. Why should this profession be free of watchful eyes?

Having a cam monitor a service you are paying for is only fair.

By Charred — On Jun 17, 2011

@SarahG - I’ll guarantee you one thing: if the AARP ever rose up in unison against granny cams, every device in operation would be shut down right away.

How do I know this?

First, the AARP is a powerful lobbying organization, and second, anytime a group of people demands privacy in our society, they start a fire going that doesn’t die down very quickly.

Right now senior citizens are not protesting, but I think they should and when they do people will have to find more responsible ways of keeping tabs on their loved ones than using spy gear.

As you can tell, I’m not too crazy about this technology.

By lovealot — On Jun 17, 2011

The issue of using granny cams is really a thorny one. I guess if a camera is set up for monitoring an elderly patient in a care-givers setting could be a good idea. There are many cases of abuse that are reported.

On the other hand, I would think one has to be absolutely sure that the elderly person understands that he or she is giving consent to be monitored. Permission from the caregivers is also needed to make it legal.

It can be a wise idea to monitor elderly patient care because it seems more and more care givers are hired without an adequate background check. There is a real problem of elder abuse.

By SarahG — On Jun 17, 2011

Spy equipment is created for a reason. If you don't feel comfortable about the assisted living home your family member lives in, you have the right to do a little checking.

I believe I have a really great sensor when it comes to people: are you a liar or are you a truly good and honorable person? I think I can tell the difference.

But many people don't know how to decide if their family member is being mistreated. They worry the family member might be showing signs of dementia and the truth becomes a muddled mess.

Trust your gut instinct and use a granny cam if you feel the need. I'd do it in a second now that I know what my family member actually went through.

By uzumba2 — On Jun 17, 2011

It's sad, but spy gear is a necessity in today's world when moms and dads go off to work having to trust strangers to take care of their children or elderly parents.

I wish I'd had the guts to install a granny cam in my elderly aunt's retirement home. She kept telling me she was afraid. I spent hours talking with her nurses and admin where she lived.

I did the best I could. But if I could go back today and do it all over again, I'd install a granny cam just to make sure her nurses were treating her properly when no one else was around.

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