Post CES reflection on role of technology and Alzheimer's.
Boston, mid-May, 2016
I want to pose the question -- again. Just because we can set up all kinds of security in our elderly parent's home, is it right to put it there? Saw this from SmartHome's Web Camera section, a Web-Enabled Securelink Elderly Kit -- this turns out to be a PERS pendant -- the camera is extra. And security vendors Alarm.com and ADT both offer video monitoring, not yet specifically targeting seniors, but for worried adult children, a camera may seems like a good idea. Maybe.
Cameras make folks feel safe, right? Those who care for elderly parents from a long distance might see this as a great relief -- a way to enable a parent to stay longer in independent living, perhaps keep the costs of a move to assisted living down, perhaps keep a parent with some dementia safer while the adult child is at work. And maybe it does make sense to place a security camera at the doorway of a home (with a large display sticker on the door) to deter criminals.
Motion sensors may be enough. But I have some concerns about web cameras that are aimed at people inside their home, an invasion of personal space in a way that remote sensor-based monitoring does not. Motion sensor monitoring, typically sold through dealers to independent living, assisted living, or continuing care communities -- is part of offerings of Healthsense, GrandCare Systems, GE QuietCare, and Wellaware Systems. Each of these is designed to work with an outside-the-room responder to monitor the information collected by the motion sensors, ideally converted into exception information and linked to health trends over time.
A right to privacy. Compare that with the camera that transmits streaming images of a person moving around a private room. We're not talking about family video calls with a PC, camera or video phone. Assuming anyone is paying attention to these images as they're streamed, or reviewing them if they're aggregated on a server, this feels like a boundary has been crossed in the name of 'preserving' a parent's right to remain in their home of choice. The right to stay, apparently, but not the right to be left alone.
Aging in place does not imply watching us age. I think we need to recognize the insecurity of adult children who see a camera aimed at the home interior as a relief for them, a way not to worry as much about a parent. But a parent who generates this much worry when left alone -- should they really be alone? This is the nightmare of our future -- come to haunt us now. Is this really what we want for ourselves or our parents -- the right to 'age in place', a place with a camera aimed at our moving alone around the kitchen?
Better products, but maybe a move. Along a continuum of PERS pendants at one end and the ADT camera aimed at us, let's see vendors solve the conundrum of maximizing safety with minimizing invasion of privacy. Or let's be realistic about choices -- maybe it's time to attend an adult day program for activities and supervision. Or perhaps it's time to move out of an isolated living situation and into one of the broad ranges of monitored senior housing -- making sure that if a parent moves, that the facility understands the balance between safety and privacy. And when frailty is the greatest and funding is the most frail, high quality nursing homes may be where we are safest and most secure.