Last spring, managers of a senior living facility in Duluth feared they had a thief ripping off residents. So after asking permission from relatives of a resident, they placed a hidden video camera in a flower pot at one apartment, along with a purse baited with $35.

The clandestine operation caught a personal care aide rifling the purse shortly before the money went missing, according to a state investigative report released Tuesday.

The aide at Ecumen Lakeshore was fired, providing the latest example of a so-called granny cam being used to combat elder abuse in Minnesota.

"It's a changing world, and technology is a growing part of the senior living experience," said Eric Schubert, the Shoreview-based company's spokesman.

Driven by a mistrust of the care industry, more and more families are turning to hidden surveillance cameras to help protect loved ones.

Police and care facilities are using the tactic, too. Schubert said it was the second time in five years that the Lakeshore facility, which includes assisted living, independent living and an Alzheimer's unit, had asked permission to install monitoring devices to catch a thief.

In 2009, a Burnsville assisted-living facility caught an aide on the night shift stealing prescription drugs from residents, and in 2007 a facility in Chanhassen used a camera to document an aide abusing a resident late at night in her apartment.