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Crisis avoidance with web cameras and other technology – why not?

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:

  • 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 signs 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.


Web cameras have their place.

It all depends on the role of the responsible end-viewer. If it helps in their real-time responsibilities in advocacy and better welfare management of an at-risk senior ... then they are great. If there is a guardianship role and one is subjected to ever changing commercial service people that have trust issues then yes use them.

I am for the deploy cameras in certain situations that can help and manage the senior care better. Many people talk about privacy and I understand that but many times because of abuse or lack of help the cameras can be effective in reducing problems and abuse. Cameras are deployed more and more in the streets and people are not bothered by it in general and it reduces crime and other problems.

Personally, I can't think of any drawbacks when it comes to installing cameras in a variety of venues where seniors are being cared for or even living on their own. Of course, if the main goal is to monitor the senior and not the caregiver, then no one should be forced to be under surveillance. Family members might have to be careful about broaching the subject of in-home cameras and make sure to negotiate any plan.

Personally, I love the idea of webcams. Home monitoring for frail seniors who live alone and those with memory impairments is a great deterrent against abuse. At the same time, the resistance from the older adult is often because of a 'big brother' feeling. Even medication reminders can feel like a 'big brother' device to some of the clients I work with, so the idea of a webcam is hard to sell. No one seems to feel frail and 85. For an adult who has been independent their whole life, the idea of the condescending "granny cam" is a tough pill to swallow. Again, I think as much transparency as possible in home care is a great thing, so if the approach is to monitor the work of the caregivers then there may be more buy-in. If an older adult agrees, and their family is supportive, a webcam or other video monitoring device is a fantastic method. I have one client whose son is always traveling overseas, so he and his mother agreed to have cameras installed in her apartment so he could check in on her from his phone, wherever he is. It works really well for them. Thanks for the article- CalaCare is always looking for better ways to incorporate technology into our home care services.

This is stimulated by your article on webcams and age in place elder care.  Obviously tech can be well-deployed and fantastically useful, but it can also be poorly-deployed, too costly, misused and totally useless.  Expensive tech may be impressively fancy, but have no impact because it is too costly or too complex for the user/maintenance. Some tech actually gets in the way of delivering care (let's not equate high tech with high care).  Everyone looks at the dollar signs in deployment in large institutions and CCRC companies. Is it the dollar sign, sexy marketing or the needs of poor Grandma that are driving tech choices/markets?  Tech may need to be coupled to humans and human service to realize its potential.  Low tech might be better than high tech (my stove and washer/dryer are a lot easier to use/more reliable/less maintenance intense than my computer).  What Grandma needs is not necessarily the same as what the CCRC needs.

 I'd like to see you consider the low cost, simple approach employing webcams coupled to human need and service considerations in the use of technology by Full Circle America. Only WEALTHY elders will be able to afford living in a fancy CCRC that deloys Intel-GE systems, Grandcare complete, etc.  What about the rest of the gray nation who have no "IT" support, little money, variable personal support and no institutional support (ALU/CCRC)?  Folks would rather avoid the institutions. I'd like you to consider Full Circle America's use of webcams in the context of the left side of the Gaussian curve.  I have no relationship to FCA and only found them as I found your website by Google.


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