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Protecting an Elderly Relative in a Retirement Home


As a business that sells somewhat unusual products, we recognize that any additional information we provide can benefit not only our customers, but casual readers as well.  Since the owners and staff at Spytech have accumulated decades of collective experience in the business, we have decided to share our knowledge through this "Spytechblog".

Protecting an Elderly Relative in a Retirement Home

Hans School

Canadians have all seen the scary news reports about "Retirement Homes" - or "Long Term Care Facilities" - around the country (most recently this W5 Season 49 Episode 27 which aired in April 2015).  Whether the story is about the staff abusing a resident, residents attacking each other or some other form of neglect, it is becoming increasingly worrisome to think about a loved one being cared for in one of those facilities.  Consequently, people have been approaching Spytech stores to help them overcome these types of issues for many years now.  I will summarize for you the best information about this type of situation, that I can provide based on my experience, but please note that I am merely a retail spy equipment expert.  If you have an urgent legal or medical inquiry about an elderly resident, then I must insist that you contact the appropriate legal or medical expert immediately, because none of this information will help you.

Regulations to protect residents

Until 2011 the retirement home industry in Ontario was self-regulated.  Since the "Retirement Homes Act" has taken effect over the last few years, there are now licenses for these facilities and a new "Retirement Home Regulatory Authority".  One of the goals of this new legislation was to create some kind of authority that a victim or a witness could report to.  But several years later, are the conditions really improving or has the plan created a coverup culture within the industry?  Even if we assume that the new regulations are enforced perfectly, the Regulatory Authority still can't find out about most problems, unless someone notifies them.  Who is that someone exactly?

To answer that question, let us examine the characters involved in the above W5 news story.  None of the management staff, the accused worker nor their union were on the side of the victim.  Even though the incidents on the show were from various provinces, with somewhat different regulations, the retirement home staff all shared a similar indifference towards the residents.  Of course, there must also be cases that are completely resolved within the retirement home itself, so they never appear in the media.  Yet, the impression of the retirement home industry presented in that W5 report, is negative enough to make most residents and their families wonder about their own facility.  The resident could potentially end up being the only one willing to report an incident.

How you can protect an elderly relative

If you have an elderly relative, it would be ideal if you could simply ask him or her for detailed information about whatever incident they were involved in.  At least you would know exactly what to investigate, if anything.  The problem is that so many elderly people are confused due to medications, or the various memory issues associated with old age, leading to a high rate of unreported incidents.  In the case of abuse, often some family member will notice unexplained injuries before the victim ever mentions anything.

So the first thing to do is pay attention to any strange behavior changes, sudden excessive injuries, or even property going missing.  Next, you would likely inquire about these problems with the retirement home staff or management.  At this point people usually reach a crossroads where they are either satisfied with the explanations they hear, or they lose their trust in the facility itself.  The former group will be lucky enough to work on a solution with the people most directly involved.  The latter group will be interested in both finding out what exactly is happening that they don't know about, and ultimately, what they can do about it.

Lest anyone think video cameras are the only solution, I must stress that there are surely many other ways to deal with the problems mentioned above, but they are not in my area of expertise.  It would also be a good idea to contact a lawyer at this point if you haven't already.  Let me refer you to the following links for some much more qualified advice:

  • For information about Ontario in particular, you could contact the advocacy group mentioned in the W5 story:

  • Canada also has a national advocacy group that, among other things, provides legal help for seniors called:


  • If you are located in the United States, I refer you to this website that provides you with a whole list of American advocacy groups:

Hopefully these resources can provide you with the solutions you need to put an end to any retirement home related issues, or maybe they can inspire some new ideas that you may not have thought of.  Now let us return to the topic I do know about.

"Granny Cams"

Customers who visit our Spytech stores have usually exhausted all the options mentioned above, yet their question still remains unanswered, "How can we protect our elderly relative?"

The easiest answer is to use a video camera to gather evidence of any suspected crimes.  The hidden cameras needed for this application are known by the pop-culture label "Nanny Cams", but they are actually more often used as "Granny Cams".  You can research the various features of Spytech's own video cameras in our online store for yourself.  Once you know more about what products are available, you will at least have a better idea of what is, or is not technically possible.  Remember, planning around existing technology is always easier than trying to find some obscure technology that will best fit within your plans.

I cannot stress enough that the elderly resident should be made aware of the camera, and should be asked for their consent, since they are the ones who are being filmed.  You may also want to consider whether to have the audio feature enabled or disabled, as there could be privacy issues when recording conversations.   For Canadians in particular, I will refer you to the article, "Setting up a Hidden Camera? Read this First.", written by W5.  They are very familiar with this topic since they use hidden cameras themselves.  Please do not assume any of this information applies outside of Canada as I can assure you that privacy laws vary greatly among different countries.

Finally, if you have successfully recorded some kind of incident with a Granny Cam, then there are several actions to consider.  You may choose to lay criminal charges, or try to contact the appropriate regulatory authority, or pursue some kind of legal action.  Even if you already know what you want to do, that lawyer I told you to contact earlier will have some great advice, which could keep you from making the wrong decision.  Whatever happens after this, I hope that it will accomplish the most important goal, which is to prevent any further problems for the elderly resident.

Hans School
President, Spytech

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