Surveillance Tech Wirelessly Watches Over Older Parents

For 74-year-old Carol Brewer, welcoming a video camera into her living room wasn't easy.

She said she'd walk through her own home and wonder, "Am I dressed appropriately?"

But over time, she said, she grew accustomed to the little grey globe in the corner of the room and now credits it, in part, with helping her and her 78-year-old husband Ross, who is paralyzed from the waist down, continue to live in their Lafayette, Ind., home on their own.

"It bothered me a little," she said. "But now I don't worry about it."

That's because during the past two years, the surveillance camera and the other wireless sensors scattered around the Brewers' home have allowed "telecaregivers" to help the couple avert emergency time and again.

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If Carol Brewer falls, she can press a button affixed to a chain around her neck and immediately reach a caregiver on the phone. If a door is left ajar or unlocked, she gets a phone call alert.

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She said she recently received a call when sensors picked up on the fact that their house was too warm.

"I had my oven on. That's how quickly they pick up on these things," she said. "They've thought of so many things I wouldn't think of normally. It's been wonderful for us."

And the Brewers aren't alone. A growing group of aging Americans are inviting sophisticated surveillance technology into their homes so they can continue to live independently.

"I think a lot of older people have a problem with it because of the whole Big Brother controversy," said Julie Davis, chief content officer for the online senior care resource ParentGiving. "I think you can get over that reluctance with the right conversation with your parents, by explaining that these are the steps that you can take to enable them to get what they really want, which is staying in their home, not moving to another facility where someone would monitor them all the time."

About 90 percent of people, when polled, say they want to live and ultimately die in their homes, she said, but as people live longer, that's not possible without help.

Telecaregiving Services Are 'Eyes' and 'Ears' for Families

Especially as healthcare costs climb and the economy falters, technology-enabled senior care increasingly offers an attractive option, Davis said.

An assisted-living facility can cost up to $80,000 a year and salaried home caregivers can also be pricey. By contrast, experts say telemonitoring services can range from less than $100 to about $1,000 a month.

"[It's] a way to have some eyes and ears on a loved one, when you yourself can't be there," Davis said.

The "eyes" and "ears" that watch over the Brewers belong to trained caregivers at ResCare, a Louisville, Kentucky-based company that provides residential care services to the elderly and people with disabilities.

Through its Rest Assured program, which was developed with the Purdue University School of Technology, the company remotely monitors about 300 clients across the country.

Dustin Wright, the general manager for Rest Assured, said the company works very closely with clients and their families to determine exactly what is needed.

Sensors Monitor Motion, Pressure, Temperature

"[We] get to know the needs of the client -- medical needs, personal safety risks, do they have dementia and, if so, what are some of the signs of that and how do we care for that person. What are the instructions for caring for that person," he said.

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