Surveillance in Age-Related Care Facilities


One of the most important technological developments in age-related care facilities (nursing homes, assisted living facilities, hospice care facilities, etc.) is the widespread use of surveillance video. This technology allows for there to be many more “eyes” than before, constantly watching for a suspicious person entering the facility or signs that a patient is in distress or injured. Cameras are more typical in large (and more expensive) facilities, becoming the standard for the security and safety of many residents. However, in smaller facilities, cameras are not always as common.

Knowing what technology is out there means that we can ask informed questions and make informed decisions …

There are detractors of putting cameras everywhere in such facilities, and that has its own place in a larger discussion of monitoring in general, but it is important to know what, exactly, surveillance equipment can do now, its uses in age-related care facilities, and how it has changed from when it was first being used. Knowing what technology is out there means that we can ask informed questions and make informed decisions when we survey these facilities for our loved ones.

Closed-Circuit Cameras

Closed-circuit camera systems are camera systems which have, generally, a physical connection to each other and a centralized television, usually located in a security office or with satellite television monitors at key stations, like the front desk. Closed-circuit cameras monitor the happenings of a specific building and, until recently, largely took lower-quality video recorded onto tapes. Many public spaces, such as malls or government buildings, have utilized these for decades now in order to reduce security risk and crime. Evidence from these cameras is often used in court proceedings as forensic evidence.

Today’s closed-circuit cameras have more sophistication, especially depending upon their price. Many can record sound in addition to video, and appear in better definition so as to show more detail.

Using a physically wired connection makes them less vulnerable to tampered video…

It should be noted that closed-circuit cameras are generally not on a wireless (and therefore “hackable”) network. Using a physically wired connection makes them less vulnerable to tampered video, although disconnecting wires or the camera itself will stop it from recording.

Storage in the Cloud

Although the security of information in the cloud is debatable, the accessibility is the primary feature for innovation. Rather than having to be on-site, connected to a computer that is physically within a facility, a user can log in to the storage in the cloud and find video surveillance at their fingertips.

In age-related care facilities, storage of video surveillance in the cloud allows for oversight. Instead of relying on on-site monitoring of employees for, say, abuse or neglect of patients or adherence to law or policy, an impartial administrator or regulator could use forensic evidence collected by cameras to find evidence of wrongdoing or security risk. On-site storage has a risk of being physically destroyed or being tampered with—think of how easily you can take a video file and move it to “Trash” on an office computer, or smash a junk drive to pieces if there is incriminating evidence present on a physical computer. By backing files up to a separate and encrypted storage like the cloud, that information is kept safer.

It should be noted that the cloud always raises privacy and safety concerns for users. Most lay people know very little about the cloud (although, if you use a smartphone, odds are you have some information stored in the cloud!), but according to the Cloud Computing Reference Guide released in 2013 by CDW, there are ways to make cloud storage private and secure.

Smart Cameras

Although certainly not present in every age-related care facility, so-called “smart cameras” are a new wave of surveillance technology that has definite potential.

…Nanny Cam…

The company Butterfleye has produced a “wireless home surveillance camera” that is accessible at all times via Wi-Fi (think the oft-used movie trope of the “Nanny Cam,” with the added bonus that you can pull up the feed 24/7 on your smartphone so long as you can connect to the internet). It also comes with more sophisticated features, including “a thermal sensor, motion detector, and facial recognition technology,” says It can be programmed to sense when to turn on or off, and is not as prohibitively expensive as one might think– the cost was $199 per unit in 2015.

The biggest competitor to this product is probably “The Canary”—a product that offers similar features and even night vision.

Products like these are useful because they can be motion-activated, cued by, for example, a dementia patient that becomes confused in the night and wanders out of bed, potentially putting themselves at risk for physical injury. By turning on and alerting security or nurses to the movement immediately instead of waiting for an injury or for a security person to do a camera sweep, these devices can improve the speed at which patients in age-related care facilities can get care.



CDW. Cloud Computing Reference Guide. (October 2013) Available at Retrieved on February 29, 2016.

Combo, Al. (April 21, 2015). Checking Out the Latest Surveillance Technologies. Campus Safety Magazine. Available at Retrieved on February 29, 2016.

GizMag Team. (May 26, 2016.) Butterfleye smart surveillance camera keeps watch with your iPhone. Available at Retrieved on February 29th, 2016.

Marak, Carol. Safety in Assisted Living. Assisted Living Facilities. Available at Retrieved on February 29, 2016.