Why wait for a crisis to decide to deploy web cameras in senior care? Did you know that, according to the Administration on Aging , this is the year of elder abuse prevention ? Perhaps it should be the year for webcam deployment in all senior care settings, especially now that that the Frontline story aimed an investigative spotlight at assisted living . So I heard a story this week about an elderly person abused by a home care worker – not surprising, really, when a care recipient is frail and no one is around except the care provider. The family subsequently placed a web camera in the home. According to a family member, it was quite a deterrent for the subsequent hires, made aware from the start about its presence. Plus, it was as an enabler for day-time check-ins while an adult daughter was at work. So why aren’t web cameras ubiquitous in senior care settings – especially to observe care activities like entrances and exits of workers when residents are less mobile, in bed or stranded in wheelchairs? Your opinions are welcome:
- Home care agencies should leap at the chance to resell technology. The webcam should be installed on day one, placed by the home care agency as a deterrent to elder abuse  and a communication tool for the extended family. But based on a survey of managers of home care businesses, web cameras are not typically deployed or discussed with the family . Nor will you find a mention of them as a service on the sites of the leading franchise agency, Home Instead . However, surprisingly, Comfort Keepers presents technology  on its home page with a complete list of tech choices for in-home care  – but no webcam. In November, LivHome  launched it CareMonitor™  offering based on GrandCare Systems  – enabling vital sign data and communication with the care recipient -- but no webcam.
- Assisted Living has an opportunity – where are the tech-enabled service levels? In our next life, each level of the care continuum will have its own generally accepted technology categories that match service level. So far, there are limited sign s that senior living communities are promoting tech enablement for residents to interact with families -- and no comprehensive surveys that I can find either. It's great that some of this tech is introduced based on the growing frailty of residents moving in , electronic medical records are finally of interest. Some see various combinations, packages and even suites of technologies, as a way to offer services through virtual assisted living  and community without walls  concepts. In both categories, individuals remain in the community but receive services that are similar to those in assisted living communities or are delivered by the senior housing provider . Interestingly, features an iPad and physician portal  on its home page – but it’s for communicating with the doctor. And Benchmark Senior Living provides Benchmark Connections  -- not just for connecting seniors with families, but also to offer front end for concierge services . Alas, no webcam.
- Nursing homes – by then technology deployment is limited. Maybe nursing homes could out-tech and out-innovate  everyone else, but it seems unlikely based on their own limited responses to a CAST fielded survey  from last fall. On the positive side, 18 of 81 responding companies of 6000 members  are investing in video/Skype capability for residents in 2013. For those nursing homes that have implemented It’s Never Too Late,  webcams are standard with the system – primarily for purposes of communication. For oversight of care, facilities may hide behind another state-by-state song and dance masquerading as a violation of privacy. Check out how one family member used a hidden camera and caught a care worker in the act of mistreating her mother . Perhaps given the negative publicity that can result, more should follow.