Surveillance Tech Wirelessly Watches Over Older Parents

Then the company installs a variety of sensors around the home. On average, he said they install one to two video cameras per client (though some require as many as four). They also configure five to 15 sensors that can monitor motion, pressure, temperature and other kinds of information.

Some clients need 24-hour active monitoring via video camera, others just want daily virtual "drop-ins" to make sure they're taking their medication or haven't encountered any problems.

Wright said that some clients don't need daily telecaregiving services at all, they just want an emergency watch program that alerts the company when a sensor detects danger or an unusual event.

"The basic premise is an event happened and someone needs to know about it or an event didn't happen and someone needs to know," said Jason Ray, vice president of Simply Home, which also offers telemonitoring services.

Remote Monitoring Comforts Families

He said his company provides a range of options for clients and can tailor specific programs to meet their needs.

For example, Ray said, they had a South Carolina family ask for a snapshot every time the backdoor to their mother's house opened. So they devised a system whereby a sensor monitors the door and automatically e-mails the son and daughter a picture of anyone that enters.

Jeff Brewer, Carol and Ross Brewer's son, said the remote monitoring program lets him check in on his parents from anywhere in the world.

"I can pull up the camera and talk to them," said Brewer, 51, who is an information technology professor at Purdue University. "[I can] see their posture or how they're reacting to a question."

The telemonitors hired to check in on his parents can only activate the video camera twice a day, but he said he can watch the streaming video any time of day.

If his mother leaves the house to run an errand, he said, he can turn on the camera to make sure his father, who uses a wheelchair, is fine on his own.

"It's comforting to know that I can check on him when I know that he's there all by himself," he said.

But the surveilled say the technology-enabled intrusions sometimes take some getting used to.

Each night at 8:30 p.m., Carol said, a telemonitor activates the video camera and asks her a series of questions to make sure she and her husband are set for the night.

"I knew they had to do it and I knew it was a good idea but sometimes I thought, 'It's none of your business,'" she said. "But most of the time I understood."

And, she added that the technology can also introduce an element of fun.

"I'm able to do some ironing and one of the guys who calls knows I hate to iron and he laughs and says, 'I see the old ironing board out,'" she said. "We joke around."

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