If you’re caring for an aging parent or loved one in your home, you’re probably familiar with the tightrope walk of respecting their desire for autonomy while keeping an eye on them and making sure they’re safe. Although there are a wealth of monitored living solutions in most areas of the country, many seniors will go to great lengths to maintain their privacy and keep the lifestyle that makes them happy. The fear, of course, is that those of us caring for independently aging parents might not know of emergencies until it’s too late.
One of the best new tools to help keep seniors and their caretakers connected are smart Wi-Fi cameras. While many people may think of security cameras as protecting our homes from outside intruders, they can also be an integral tool in helping caretakers keep an eye on loved ones (while they maintain their independence). Here’s how security cameras can help.
Consider a Security Camera for Safety
A fall, health emergency, break-in or household accident can happen to any family, and caretakers are almost always the first line of defense for the most vulnerable. Aging seniors, especially those with physical or mental limitations, are, particularly at risk. When parents who are aging in place have an accident or health event, caregivers need to know as soon as possible.
While the security cameras of the past were expensive and complicated to install, today’s smart cameras are unobtrusive, pair with smartphones and tablets for remote access, and take only minutes to install. Most importantly, they can provide a valuable safety net that can help you and your parents feel secure.
With options for smartphone notifications, video recording and live monitoring, cameras paired with a home security solution can help alert you and the authorities to issues in or outside of your loved one’s home.
Install Cameras to Suit Your Needs
One of the best things about today’s smart cameras is that you can install them almost anywhere and you just need a solid home Wi-Fi connection, which your local cable service provider can offer. The only wiring that most cameras require is an electrical cord—so they only need a nearby outlet. If that’s an issue, there are an increasing number of battery-powered solutions on the market that hold their charge for months on end.
For privacy-conscious seniors, the best locations for smart cameras are primary living spaces like kitchens, living rooms, or even frequently used hallways. These areas provide a useful window into the senior’s everyday life for caretakers to peek into at any time and from anywhere.
Keep Security in Mind
As you’re shopping for the right smart camera, be sure to go with an option that promises encrypted video streams and strong security measures. Although the issues are rare, you’ve no doubt seen the news reports of hacked cameras and stolen footage. These issues only arise when customers purchase knock-off or bargain basement solutions online. It’s worth it to go with a known and trusted brand.
Speaking of security, when you set up user accounts for your cameras, be sure to use a unique password. In the unlikely event that someone does attempt to gain access to your account, a strong password will keep your cameras safe and sound.
Look for User-Friendly Devices with Options to Expand
No gadget or gizmo is useful if it’s a pain to use. When you research camera options, look for products that provide an elegant companion app that’s easy to use.
Some of today’s options make it simple to view and share motion-activated recordings through their smartphone mobile app, and your local cable provider may even offer features that allow you to view camera footage on your TV. That’s a lot more convenient than some of the outdated products that require you to view footage on a computer or to download it on a memory card.
Some Wi-Fi cameras can also be connected to a comprehensive smart home hub, integrating devices like a video doorbell, smart locks or a smart thermostat. This allows you to have even more access to assist your aging loved ones. Your local cable provider may have options to bundle security and home automation services that you can manage remotely via a mobile app.
Make Use of Live Streaming and Monitoring
While passive recording can be helpful, if you’re using smart cameras to care for your parents, you’ll want to be able to check in at a moment’s notice by using a live-stream feature.
Live streams are available from almost all the most popular camera providers, and all it takes to initiate this feature is typically the tap of a button in a smartphone app. Live streams are valuable because passive or motion-timed recording doesn’t pick up everything. Motion detection may alert you to a parent entering a room, but a live-stream check-in may allow you to see a fall or another emergency that your camera may not be able to detect on its own.
When the camera is part of a full security system, monitoring services can alert the authorities when an emergency situation occurs, such as when the alarm is triggered.
Enable Life-Saving Communication with Two-Way Talk Features
While many cameras record audio by default, a two-way talk device is essentially a video speakerphone that’s built directly into the camera. In the event of an emergency, this can allow you to communicate with a loved one who can’t reach a phone, providing invaluable comfort in a time of need.
Look for Integration with Smart Home Platforms
Smart cameras can be useful to you and your parents in many daily scenarios as well. Pair these cameras with a smart home hub, and they can automatically tell your home systems to shut off lights, turn off the TV, or adjust the temperature when a room has been empty for a preset amount of time. Plus motion sensors can alert you if for instance, your mom hasn’t gotten out of her room or if she hasn’t opened the medicine cabinet to take her daily medication. You’ll enjoy the peace-of-mind from having cameras around, and your parents will enjoy the everyday convenience, even more, when you automate some daily tasks for them.
With all these useful features, you may expect that these camera systems would cost thousands of dollars. The good news is that smart cameras from the best brands can be found for $150 to $200, with even better discounts available if you buy a few at once.
The services that power them are extremely affordable as well. Many providers offer 30 days of recordings for about $10 per month, and some even offer short-term recordings for free. You may be able to get additional security services as part of a bundle with your local internet service provider. There are great options available for almost every budget, so don’t be afraid to shop around until you find the best system for you.
Cameras aren’t just about keeping intruders out anymore—although they do that, too. They can help make every day safer and more convenient for your aging loved ones, and they serve as a valuable ally should a critical emergency ever occur.
Eric Murrell is a software developer and technology contributor to
Xfinity Home. He enjoys sharing tips on how people of all ages can benefit from smart home automation and security. Eric provides advice about smart home tech on his blog At Home in the Future.