Tragic death of elderly dementia sufferer renews calls for independently-monitored CCTV cameras in all aged care facilities

25 July 2019

The tragic drowning death of an aged care resident has renewed calls for independently-operated CCTV cameras in all aged care facilities, SA-BEST believes.

SA-BEST MLC and Ageing spokesperson, Frank Pangallo, said he was alarmed and saddened how dementia sufferer, Anne Gibson, 78, was able to leave her North Adelaide aged care facility on Tuesday night without raising the alarm of staff.

Her body was found in the backyard pool of a nearby residences by the owner the following morning.

The Helping Hand aged care facility at North Adelaide is now at the centre of a police investigation to determine how the tragedy occurred.

Frank said Ms Gibson’s death was another example of how a tragedy could have been averted had independently-operated CCTV cameras been installed in the woman’s bedroom as well as other areas of the aged care facility.

“I am deeply disturbed this tragedy could happen,” Frank said.

“Dementia patients must be actively and constantly monitored in care facilities for their own protection and the protection of other residents,” he said.

“Entry/exit doors should be secured at all times to prevent this type of tragedy from happening. Who was looking out for Ms Gibson?

“Incidents like this simply amplify the need for CCTV cameras in all aged care facilities in all areas – not just common areas – and the appropriate monitoring of such technology.

“There has obviously been a major breakdown in the operating procedures of the aged care facility.

“Helping Hand must explain how it happened. I will write to the coroner and ask him to consider holding an inquest.

“My heart goes out to the woman's family and her loved ones – this tragedy was avoidable and should not have happened.”

 SA-BEST last year unveiled plans for an Australian-first initiative to have CCTV cameras installed in the bedrooms of residents in South Australia Government-operated aged care facilities.

A Private Members Bill introduced by Frank would make it compulsory for state-operated aged care facilities to provide an “opt in” option where residents or their families can choose to have a CCTV camera installed in their private living quarters and mandatory in common areas.

Both the Liberal Government and Labor Opposition have said they would not support the Bill in its current form – although they are in favour of the technology being used in aged care facilities.

In the meantime, the State Government announced a selective trial of CCTV cameras in bedrooms of aged care residents in at least five government-operated facilities as part of a 12-month trial that is due to start in the second half of this year.

There are currently no laws governing the installation or operation of CCTV cameras in nursing home bedrooms or common areas although their use in common areas is utilised by many aged care providers.

Independent monitoring of CCTV cameras – as carried out by Care Protect, which is conducting the government’s pilot – would have alerted staff at Helping Hand within seconds if a resident is in distress or behaving abnormally.

New advances in CCTV technology allow certain areas of a person’s bedroom to the screened out, allaying any privacy concerns. Cameras are not needed in bathrooms, but activity can still be monitored by audio and thermal imaging.

Frank said he hoped more aged care facilities would take it upon themselves to introduce the technology as a positive acquisition to their business, as well as a significant marketing tool over other facilities that did not want CCTV cameras in private quarters.

“There is nothing stopping any aged care facility – private or public - from offering its residents the safety and security of CCTV technology in their bedrooms, and in the process maybe stopping a tragedy like we have just had,” Frank said.

“Safeguards like closed circuit television cameras can help restore faith and trust in the system - and serve as positive form of protection not just for vulnerable adults but also for staff and proprietors,” he said.

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