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Safe Seniors: Camera Program Aims to Protect At-Risk Elders

At least 10 percent of individuals 65 and older are believed to be victims of neglect or abuse, according to the National Center on Elder Abuse, and that number is likely much higher as many instances go unreported.

As the nation’s aging population grows, Wisconsin and other states are seeking new ways to prevent nursing home abuse and other forms of elder abuse. In 2018, for example, the Wisconsin Department of Justice launched the Safe Seniors Camera Program, which allows Wisconsin residents who believe a caregiver is abusing an elderly loved one to use a DOJ-provided covert camera to provide surveillance.

In this post, the Madison nursing home abuse attorneys at Boller & Vaughan take a closer look at the Safe Seniors Camera Program and discuss what to do if you suspect a loved one is a victim of elder abuse.

About the Safe Seniors Camera Program

The Safe Seniors Camera Program launched in February 2018, and was initially available only to residents in seven communities in the northeastern part of the state. The program is now accessible to residents statewide.

The program enables Wisconsin residents who suspect an in-home caregiver of mistreating an elderly loved one to use a hidden camera to record their interactions. The cameras are owned by the state’s DOJ, which also provides memory cards to store the data.

Approved applicants receive a camera and memory card for up to 30 days and are required to save recordings on a daily basis. Participants are also required to notify law enforcement of any recordings that may depict illegal conduct.

Cameras from the Safe Seniors program are not for use in nursing homes and other types of assisted-living centers due to potential privacy violations related to other residents. The program focuses only on at-risk seniors who have in-home caregivers.

Elder Abuse in Wisconsin

In 2017, the last year for which comprehensive data is available, more than 7,000 instances of elder abuse, neglect and financial exploitation were reported in Wisconsin. In almost every case, the abuse occurred where the senior lived. Nursing homes were the third-most-common site reported in instances of neglect, physical abuse or financial exploitation.

Wisconsin residents can use the Safe Seniors Camera Program to help loved ones who may be unable to help themselves. In some cases, elderly seniors or disabled patients may lack the verbal or cognitive capabilities needed to report an abusive caregiver; they may also fear retaliation, which can allow the abuse to continue.

The camera program helps provide peace of mind while empowering family members to take charge following neglectful or potentially abusive behavior. Catching an abusive caregiver on video strengthens an elder abuse claim at no cost to the victim or the victim’s family.

In addition to aiding civil action, the DOJ hopes the program’s growth will help deter others from misconduct in the future. “There are great caregivers in our communities,” Brown County Sheriff John Gossage said in a Green Bay Press Gazette article at the time of the program’s launch. “We just want to weed out those responsible for wrongdoing.”

What to Do if You Suspect Elder Abuse

If you have a loved one in a nursing home or community-based residential facility, or who receives at-home care, it’s important to be vigilant for signs of neglect or abuse.

If you believe an elderly loved one is a victim of neglect or abuse, contact local law enforcement or your county’s elder abuse help line. It’s also a good idea to discuss your situation with a knowledgeable nursing home abuse lawyer, who may be able to help you pursue compensation for damages.

The Madison attorneys at Boller & Vaughan are dedicated to helping elder abuse victims and their families recover the financial security they need to move forward with their lives. Please call us at 608-268-0268 or contact us online for a free consultation.

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