Using a home camera to monitor the elderly could provide you and other family members with some comfort especially if the monitor includes a camera allowing us to see and hear the activity in real time.  Cameras are now used in many public and private spaces in order to monitor the people inside and outside of buildings. Banks, shopping malls, and government buildings use these cameras to ensure that no crime is committed, and, if there is a crime, that it is caught on camera as a way to assist law enforcement. In private homes, however, cameras are there to preserve the safety of those inside.

Nursing homes and assisted living facilities are now using cameras in many ways and places, most often in foyers and entrances in order to monitor traffic. However, many private citizens are choosing to install home camera surveillance systems in order to monitor their own loved ones, either in age-related care facilities or at home. This often means buying and installing equipment and monitoring the video feed remotely, or reviewing it at home.

Home Camera Pros and Cons

Since the creation of so-called “nanny cams,” Americans in particular have been comfortable with the idea of at-home surveillance, if done by the owner of the home, especially to protect against outsiders—like, for example, a suspicious caregiver. For seniors, this monitoring also serves to ensure safety if a caregiver is not around. Unlike a child who cannot be left alone under a certain age, seniors are often perfectly capable of caring for themselves the majority of the time—until they aren’t.

For example: consider that you are a caregiver for your elderly mother, who is of perfectly sound mind, but who has had a few slips lately. No serious injuries have occurred, but it is becoming clearer each day that, when you leave your shared home for work, she could fall and no one would find her for several hours, which could be life-threatening. With the right technology, you could check on her every few minutes—or even see where she is moving to, or if she stops moving around at all.

Another important consideration is the use of camera surveillance to preserve the safety of dementia patients. If your loved one has dementia or another similar cognitive disorder, he or she is at risk for wandering out of the house and into danger. With a home camera with video monitoring, you can make sure that your loved one is seen and stopped before getting out of the house or venturing very far from the home.

Don’t forget:  Using a home camera for recording someone without their consent has serious consequences…

Despite the obvious benefits, there are clear obstacles to utilizing home camera surveillance. First of all, you have to wrestle with the consent of your loved one. Recording someone without their consent has serious consequences, and some seniors may take the installation of camera equipment into their home as a major violation of their privacy. Or, to make things more complex, they may not be capable of consenting to (or denying consent to) such monitoring, as is the case for those with severely progressed cognitive decline. Then the decision is up to their legal guardian, which may be their spouse, a child, a close friend, or even a lawyer, if it isn’t you. Navigating those waters may be difficult.

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Then there is the cost of the installation. Some may be handy enough to find solid equipment and install it themselves, but many of us require expert installation and more expensive equipment. This means a serious blow to the budget. That is why making plans as early as possible with your loved one—“If my memory gets X level of serious, install it,” coupled with a savings plan—may help deal with this issue. A good setup may run close to a thousand dollars or even more, depending on the quality of the equipment.

Questions to Ask When Considering a Home Camera

When considering a home camera the space, the person and the reason for the monitoring needs to be considered.  For example, what is the area that you would like to monitor?  How big is that space and do you need to monitor more than one space.  Also consider that you will not be watching the monitor all of the time, so a backup plan for alerts if an when falls occur may still be needed.  Another factor in being able to actually use the camera is the lighting in the room if you truly want to see the senior.

Why are you monitoring?  Sometimes the reason for the monitor has more to do with the visual comfort of knowing that you can see the evidence of health or to be able to observe movement and balance as opposed to monitor falls.   This may call for a two-way system so that you can have conversations with your loved one to assess their situation.

How to Use a Home Camera

If you do not share a home with your loved one, and you are concerned for the person’s safety, you may find that remote surveillance (which you can see from a great distance, using an Internet connection) is right for you. Installing home cameras that feature motion sensing and can be seen via a smartphone app, means that whenever your loved one moves around, you can tap into a video feed and make sure everything is all right. Some of this information can be stored on a physical hard drive, or even in the information Cloud, a secure place to store password-protected information.

An Alternative to a Camera

Sometimes technology does not have to be the best and shiniest new model. Using a simple baby monitor or even hidden nanny cam can help you make sure that, during the few hours you cannot be at home or conscious (we all need sleep!), your loved one is safe and sound. Reviewing this footage is simple if you use a small, low-tech camera, and it gives you instant access to information while you are in the home.

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