Finding care for frail parents in their declining years has just been recognised as one of the most stressful decisions we will ever have to make. According to a new Care Quality Commission survey, it is more stressful than getting married or divorced or choosing children’s schooling. Central in this stress is the fear that carers might not just be inadequate but cruel – understandable given recent court cases exposing extreme abuse in care homes. But is the solution to use secret cameras to monitor carers? Or would this exacerbate stress by adding further distrust and creating a surveillance mentality towards work that essentially depends on good and trusting human relations?
While falling short of actually recommending that relatives should install surveillance cameras, the CQC is nevertheless endorsing their use by issuing guidelines for relatives considering such action. Andrea Sutcliffe, the watchdog’s chief inspector of adult social care, acknowledges that this is controversial. Some people, she says, will think of her as the “devil incarnate”, but she defends the guidelines as guidance for those who choose this route.
I certainly don’t think these suggestions are diabolic: they are a legitimate response to heart-breaking cases, like that of 79-year-old dementia sufferer Gladys Wright, whose abuse at the hands of “carer” Daniel Baynes was exposed by a secret camera; and it’s not as if surveillance in public spaces isn’t now routine. But nor can I embrace the move either.