LAW & PUBLIC SAFETY

Program Loans Surveillance Cameras to Record Possible Home Health Care Abuse

By Andrew Schmertz
Correspondent

Hidden camera video shows a home health care aide sitting on the bed of an elderly women, while the woman walks and then falls down. The aide is then seen checking her cell phone.

Another video shows another aide force feeding a 91-year-old Alzheimer’s patient.

And a third video shows an aide hitting a bedridden 26-year-old man.

The New Jersey attorney general showed these videos to showcase what happens when the wrong person is hired to care for an elderly or disabled loved one.

“I want to be clear that home health care providers, by and large the vast majority of them are compassionate professionals who treat their patients like their own family. But there are some, unfortunately as we see in this business, that are bad actors and truly have no business being in the health care field at all,” said New Jersey Attorney General Christopher Porrino.

To weed out these people, the Attorney General’s Office is launching the “Safe Care Cam” program — where his office will loan micro-surveillance cameras for families to record possible abuse. The cameras look like everyday household items, like a cell phone charger.

Porrino says families can never be sure of how a person will act when they think no one is watching.

“They can have all the necessary credentials, they can be great on an interview, but they can also be an abuser. So the risks are huge,” Porrino said.

New Jersey is seeing a rise in possible cases of abuse and other criminal acts by home aides.

This year, there have been about 300 workers who have been disciplined. That compares to 200 in 2015 and just 140 in 2014.

Prosecutors attribute that to the rapid growth of the industry. There are now 43,000 licensed home aides in the state.

“I think we’re seeing a rise primarily because this is an industry that’s growing by leaps and bounds,” said Steve Lee, director of New Jersey Consumer Affairs.

The cameras are handed out at the consumer affairs offices in Newark and Cherry Hill. You must bring a driver’s license or another form of ID and you must undergo brief training. There is no requirement you provide evidence of abuse.

“To be certified as a certified homemaker, home health aid you have go through a period of practical training — approximately 60 hours — and a period of clinical training. To be certified you also have to go through a criminal background check, have a promise of employment by a health care service firm,” Lee said.

The attorney general says a review of the licensing requirements for home health aides will take place and that recommendations may be forthcoming.