I have to say that when I started talking to my mom about trying out some video monitoring in our home, to see if it was viable, she wasn’t too thrilled !
In this article I look at how to approach using video surveillance for elderly monitoring, the legality of doing so, and subsequently all the different ways that this can be done in the home with the least disturbance.
Contents Overview & Quicklinks
Using cameras in the home with caregivers
For the elderly who have caregivers who are not family, having cameras can be a very good idea.
I’ve listed a few reasons why, and how you should be doing it.
Helps to clear up any confusion
If you are not the caregiver, or some of the time not the caregiver, it can be very useful to have indoor cameras if your elderly parents are suffering from any kind of mental impairment.
Elderly parents may suffer from confusion and paranoia, leading them to accuse caregivers of different acts, including hiding or stealing their possessions, when in fact they have simply been misplaced.
An indoor camera can give everyone, including caregivers, a feeling of security, as all involved are protected.
Cameras can only record what has happened
The cameras can only record what happens in front of them, and so can bring clarity to a situation if they are well positioned.
Always tell the caregivers about the cameras
If you want to establish trust between yourself, your elderly parents, and the caregivers, good communication is important.
Don’t hide the fact, from the caregivers, that cameras are being used, I would include it in their contracts, unless they are not allowed in your State.
Cameras are for the caregivers too
I would always emphasize to the caregiver, that the cameras are there for their rights, as much as for your elderly parent’s protection.
You don’t want to make the caregiver feel that you are suspicious of them before they even have one foot in the door, so go gently.
I will go into the legal side of using indoor cameras, and the recording of events, in more depth in a moment.
Ask your parents before you install any cameras
If you install any indoor monitoring cameras, you must of course have your parents’ agreement.
It’s not hard to understand that people don’t want cameras prying into their lives all over the place.
Try and establish a couple of places you can maybe have a camera.
If your loved ones don’t want cameras all is not lost, as there are different kinds of sensors which can establish routines and activities, without any cameras, and they can send alerts when they spot irregularities or problems.
I will be looking at systems which use these sensors in this post as well.
I wouldn’t do anything without the permission of your loved ones.
Who can take the decision if your parents can’t ?
If the elderly person who is being cared for doesn’t have the cognitive capacity to make such decisions, then it will be a family member, who has the legal right to make decisions on their behalf, who will take the decision.
Be sensible about it, and don’t film parents dressing or during other intimate tasks.
The legality of recording video and audio in your home
In the US, the law varies somewhat by state
Don’t just wing it !
You will need to check the laws for your State, and the laws for both audio and video, as the laws are separate, and they do differ.
In general –
- most states permit the recording of video in the home with an “Explicit Agreement”- but you must check your state is among those which permit this
- an “Explicit Agreement” is a written document signed by all parties, where everyone gives their consent to being filmed
- if you are not clear about the “Explicit Agreement” I would contact a lawyer to have this done, you can avoid a lot of problems in the long term – the caregiver must sign this to give consent to being filmed
- if you are recording with a camera which also records audio, you will have to follow the rules for audio as well – States have separate legislation regarding the recording of audio vs. the recording of video, so you will need to check with your state laws.
- bathrooms are generally off limits as this is an invasion of privacy, and if you have a caregiver who has their own private rooms, it is not legal to film there – again in the US check the State laws where you live
In the UK
The law in the UK is somewhat simpler than the US –
- you are allowed to record what you want in your own home
- if you are recording an employee i.e. a caregiver, you then have to be aware of their employment rights
- if you employ them directly to look after your loved one, they will have one set of rights
- if you use an agency for the caregiver, there will be another set of rights the caregiver has as an employee of the agency
- you are not allowed under the data protection act to release or distribute any of the footage you take
- you must have a clear and written data protection policy, which says how long you can hold any video recording, and it must be destroyed after that time period has elapsed
- you don’t have to let the caregiver know in the UK that you are recording with a camera, but you really should tell them so that they know they are protected from any allegations as well
- if you are filming the caregiver you must respect privacy, which means you cannot record in the bathroom, or if they have a bedroom where they sleep, you may not record there either
- if you are monitoring your parent you must obviously have their consent if it is in their home, before you install any cameras, and once again you must respect their privacy
- if your parent is unable to make such decisions for themselves, then you will need the permission of the person who holds power of attorney for them
Video and Sensor Monitoring Systems
I am starting here with a few systems which use indoor security cameras (if wanted), and multiple types of sensors placed around the home to monitor the elderly
Nobody wants to think they have become a problem, or a liability, and neither do people like the idea of being watched too much.
So the first of the systems I have picked, have been developed to allow for monitoring with, or without, cameras and as discretely as possible.
Until recently the monitoring sensors were being used in Smart home solutions to help with lighting and heating, but now they are being developed to help caregivers monitor, as discretely as possible, the elderly.
Here are some examples of systems which are combining monitoring sensors and video cameras –
Wellness Insights and WellCam by Alarm.com
Customers of Alarm.com, who have their security system, can also get a series of discreet wireless sensors that can be placed around the home to monitor the elderly.
This is an in-home security, emergency response and home monitoring system rolled into one.
You can have this with, or without, the indoor cameras, as the sensors used around the house will monitor activity and alert you to a problem, without the use of a camera.
The system initially came out as “BeClose”, then partnered, and finally merged with Alarm.com, to become Wellness Insights and WellCam by Alarm.com.
The system will –
- establish routines and activities of the user
- monitor patterns of the user for sleeping, eating, sitting, walking, bathroom use, cooking, medications etc
- establish behavioral changes to find emergent problems before which may indicate serious issues, for example if the user is not eating regularly
- give you 24hr insights, and you are connected with automated phone calls, text messages, emails, and access to a secure web portal
- monitor nighttime falls without the wearer having to wear alert buttons
- alert you if your loved one is wandering, or leaving the house at an odd time of day – you will receive an alert on your phone
- set automation for heating, lighting and security
- integrate Personal Emergency Response pendants should you so wish – Fall detectors
- 24/7 emergency response for home intrusion, fire and medical emergencies and have persistent awareness of what’s going on at home
- family members and caregivers can access a secure web portal and see if routines are being followed as expected, and if something appears wrong they may intervene if they need to
Of course, you have to have the security alarm to get all of this, so if you don’t want all of that, this is not at the cheap end of the spectrum.
This is a system which you can extend to include in-home passive monitoring, medical alerts and home security for intruders, with a 24/7 monitoring center.
To get the monitoring center 24/7, you will need to get one of the two subscriptions.
And if you want what are called “secret alerts”, you need to get the subscription called “Interactive” in the US, and Pro Premium in the UK.
“Secret alerts” are alerts which do not set off the alarm, so if your elderly parent gets up at night, you get an alert on your phone, but the system alarm is not triggered.
In the US there is also a doorbell with video monitoring, a smart lock and two-way communication, so you don’t have to move from your seat to answer the door.
It is not yet available in the UK.
The System –
- comprises a central hub, a keypad, Entry sensors (door/window/cupboard), an indoor camera – the Simplicam, Glassbreak sensors, Panic Buttons (wall), Smoke Detector, Freeze Sensor, Water Sensor, 105db Siren, Key Fob
- there are a number of packages which you can choose from, or do your own custom set up
- you just place the sensors where you wish to monitor activity
- SimpliSafe has an app called the SimpliSafe Home Security app
- the SimpliSafe Home Security app lets you control your system from anywhere from your phone or other digital device
- from the app you can arm and disarm the system, set instant notifications and keep track of everything in an up-to-the-minute timeline, watch and capture live video if you have a SimpliSafe camera
- the above activities will require a subscription of some kind to function
- you can set up what the system calls “secret alerts”, which means you are sent private notifications on your phone when certain things are happening – if the fridge is opened, if your loved one gets out of bed, if they go into the bathroom – this avoids the siren going off, but it lets you know what is happening
- medical alerts can be sent to the monitoring system in 3 ways – the panic button on the wall, the key fob (if you are within 50ft of the hub), or the red button on the keypad
- when the system is set up you need to tell the monitoring service if you are using the panic button as a medical alert or police etc., as if you are not able to speak they will send the service you have chosen
- if you can speak, you can just tell the operator the service you wish to have
- if you use the Key Fob it automatically sends the police, unless you can speak and tell the monitoring service you wish to have the fire service or medical emergency services
- the monitoring service will ask for your safe word when they call you, and then you can confirm which service you wish to have – if you are able to
- if you are unable to speak they will send which ever service was chosen when you set up the panic button, and with the Key Fob it will be the police or fire service
- you can have as many panic buttons in a different room as you wish, and you can have more than one Key Fob – you can carry these around with you
- when the operator contacts you, it will be by phone, so you have to have this on you – if they can’t get you they will send which ever emergency service you chose
- the monitoring service will also contact the designated caregivers and family members to let them know
- you also need to check with your local authorities in case your local police or fire department require a license or permit
Hive and Hive Live
The UK Smart home system Hive, which is both in the UK, and the US, has a UK only service called Hive Link. As Hive has only just established itself in the US, the product should be arriving in the near future, but I haven’t found any information on that yet.
Hive Link – UK only
Hive Link is a monitoring system developed to help monitor the elderly by placing sensors around the home.
There is no monitoring center, this is all down to the caregivers.
Hive make it very clear that they provide no medical assistance, or advice, and that this is not a medical service.
The system is only available with the Pro Premier subscription.
The System –
- the system comprises, Hive Hub, 3 Hive Plugs, 2 Hive Motion Sensors and 2 Hive window and door sensors
- Hive Link comes with an app which all the caregivers and family download to their smartphones
- the system has an app which creates a “Share Circle” for all authorized family and caregivers to be able to go and check on activities in a given time period
- Hive Link monitors the activity patterns of your loved ones and establishes patterns in their routine – 7 -14 days to establish the patterns
- Hive Link alerts you with alerts to your Smartphone when there are any irregularities in your parent’s routine
- If your parent doesn’t get up at the usual time, doesn’t turn on the kettle, doesn’t open the fridge, gets up at odd times in the night, if the front door or a window opens at night, you will receive alerts as these things aren’t part of their usual routine
- there is no device to detect falls or to alert for this
Hive Smart Home System – available in the US and UK
The Hive Smart Home sensors can work for you as a monitoring system and integrate their indoor cameras into the set-up if you use “actions” to set rules.
Hive has a system of “actions” which you can set to make the system send you alerts on the Hive App when the sensors detect the corresponding activity.
You can also use the “actions” to do things such as switch on lights if your parents get up in the night, so they don’t trip, and also set an alert, so you know they are getting up in the night.
This requires a standard subscription to Hive so that you can receive the alerts.
The system is using the same sensors as the Hive Link System, plus any of their smart home sensors.
You can, as I have said, add the indoor cameras to your system, but also an outdoor camera as well, which will give you a security aspect to your set-up.
Unfortunately, there is no doorbell.
You mustn’t confuse Hive with Hive Link, as the sensors are not building a pattern, they are simply sending alerts, if the rules for that have been set, but are also free to do other functions such as switch lights on and off when they detect motion.
With Hive Link, the sensors can’t be set to use their functions of turning lights on and off.
The is no medical alert, or fall detection.
Other examples of systems which offer a mix of indoor security cameras and motion sensors for monitoring –
Indoor cameras to monitor your parents, what should you choose ?
Recently, there has been an explosion in the number of digital indoor surveillance cameras known as “Indoor Home Security Cameras” that are available to consumers, and they are now at affordable prices.
- Most of these cameras are wireless and work on your Wi-Fi + Ethernet/internet.
They are very much suited to watching over elderly adults at night, and in the daytime should you so wish.
You can listen, talk, watch and be alerted on your smart devices when movement is detected.
- Some cameras have batteries, but in general the better cameras have a power cable and adapter.
This is because cameras taking constant footage need a constant power supply.
- Most of the cameras use cloud storage for the video.
Although some have SD cards as well.
The storage is controlled on a rolling basis – if it is 10gb of storage for 7 days a month, this just means that every 7 days the footage is deleted.
Some companies charge for the Cloud Storage, on a tiered basis, but some don’t charge and delete the storage every 7 days.
I will explain which cameras do what, at the end of this section.
- Night vision comes as standard on Motion Sensor Cameras
Allowing you to watch the bedroom and also listen in real time on a smartphone, iPhone or personal computer.
The night vision is of a better quality on the cameras which use infrared technology.
With the night vision you are able to check, in real time, that your loved ones are in bed sleeping comfortably.
This avoids going into the bedroom and possibly disturbing their sleep.
- Many of the cameras are not fixed and can pan from left to right, and tilt up and down
– directed by your smartphone or computer. Some cameras can also follow the movement of a person.
Fixed cameras have a range of 130 – 110 degree angles.
- The more advanced indoor security cameras also have a function that allows you to make a selection area, that you wish to monitor for movement
Rather than the whole room.
This enables you to, for instance, to select the area on the floor by the bed.
The sound monitoring, of course, covers the entire room.
- In addition to being a camera, a lot of the devices have audio systems which allow you to talk with your subject,
And for them to talk back and to call for your attention.
You should be able to adjust the system’s microphone, and adjust it for any feedback that you may get on your phone, or computer.
- When these cameras detect a movement or a sound, an alert is sent to your Smartphone, iPhone, pc or laptop,
Telling you that something is happening.
Having it linked to a smartphone allows you to move freely around the house, and experience a far greater level of freedom.
- You will be able to also monitor the happenings in your house when you are not there,
If you link the cameras to your smartphone, you will be able to check from anywhere you have your smartphone.
- To get your smartphone, tablet or computer linked to the camera, you will download the app to your devices
Smartphone etc. – and there you will have a multitude of settings for your security camera.
You will also link it to your Wi-Fi or Ethernet once you have the app installed.
- As well as receiving alerts from the camera, you will be able to watch, in real time, what is happening in the room even if there has been no alert.
This means you can check in any time from your phone, or computer, just to see that things are going well.
If you decide to use a system like this, you will be able to have more than one camera should you wish, and you will be able to monitor multiple rooms.
Whether, or not, you will have to change any subscription with multiple cameras depends on the product you have chosen.
With the systems that give you free storage, you will only have the cost of the extra cameras.
- One last benefit of this system is that you will have recorded footage of any incidents that occur.
Consequently, if your loved ones fall, you will be able to play back the footage and see how, where and why, they tripped or fell.
- The better cameras all have a zoom in feature for the real time monitoring if you want to get a closer look.
One final point to note, and I left it for last, so it doesn’t get lost, is the frequency of your router’s Wi-Fi.
Some cameras work on a Wi-Fi frequency of 2.4 GHz and others on 5 GHz.
If you pick a camera with a different frequency from your router, it simply will not work.
So do check that !!
Don’t forget, it’s a Security system too !
If you get one or more of these cameras you will also have an Indoor security system, and if there is an intruder who is detected you will immediately be alerted.
So, let’s start with indoor cameras which use the internet…….
Indoor video and audio monitoring cameras with motion sensors – internet required
These all offer – Smartphone Alerts, Two Way Talk and Real Time Viewing
Listed below are cameras that reviewers and specialist magazines have selected as the most reliable Indoor Home Security Cameras.
- this is a Google product and works with all their smart systems.
- for the system to work with alerts and Cloud Storage you have to pay for a subscription to “Nest Aware” their cloud storage service, so on top of the camera system cost, you will have the subscription to pay monthly.
- the system works on a 5GHz Wi-Fi frequency network.
- it is the most expensive of the indoor security cameras I am listing here, but it does apparently reflect this in its good performance.
Amazon Cloud Cam
- this is an Amazon product and works with a lot of the Amazon smart systems, but you may need to pay for any extras.
- to receive alerts, you have to pay for a subscription to the Cloud storage.
- the system only works on a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi frequency network. It will not work on a dual 2.4GHz/ 5GHz frequency network.
- it is available in the US at present, but not in the UK.
Hive View and Hive Camera
- Hive has two cameras in their system. Hive View and Hive Camera. The Hive View is the more expensive model.
- to operate a Hive product, you need to have the Hive Hub and to subscribe to their smart home platform.
- the Hive View works on 2.4GHz and 5.0GHz Wi-Fi frequencies.
- the Hive Camera works on a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi frequency.
- the platform is designed around Hive heating and has a bunch of other products you can buy, so if you are looking at the platform as a whole it could be interesting, but otherwise it is very pricey if you just want to be able to monitor an elderly parent.
Reolink C1 Pro
- this works on a Dual Band 2.4ghz/5GHz wi-fi frequency
- there will 7 day rolling free cloud storage as of early 2019
- you will not have to pay a subscription to get the alerts as of early 2019
D – Link DCS 8300LH
- this a mid-range indoor security camera.
- the D – Link comes with free cloud storage
- there is no subscription to be paid to get alerts and the live view facility.
- the D – Link works on a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi frequency.
- this camera did not have superb reviews on Amazon, but professional magazines gave it very good ratings.
Tend Insights Lynx Indoor 2
- the Tend Insights Lynx Indoor 2 is a budget indoor security camera, but in fact all the reviews have been very good, saying it performs very well and is reliable. On Amazon it had 550 reviews and an average rating of 4.7 / 5.
- the camera comes with 7 days rolling free cloud storage.
- the Tend Insights Lynx Indoor 2 works on a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi frequency.
Wyze Cam Pan
- the Wyze Cam Pan is the cheapest camera on my list, but it has over 1,500 reviews on Amazon with a rating of 4.2 / 5
- when you buy the camera, you get 14 day rolling free cloud storage, so there are no subscriptions to pay.
- the camera also had an SD card facility as well if you wish to use that.
- Wyze Cam Pan works on a 2.4GHz Wi-Fi frequency.
I am not including Blink cameras on my list because the alerts are not instantaneous.
When the camera senses the motion it starts recording, and in the case of the Blink it does not send the alert until after the action has finished.
So, even if you set the camera to a minimum of 30 sec recordings, your elderly parent may have already fallen out of bed, or their chair, or walked quite some distance, before you finally get the alert.
They also don’t have two-way audio.
Indoor security camera buyers’ checklist –
- Does the camera have to have a subscription for you to receive alerts ?
- If the camera has a subscription, How much is it ? Do you want to pay it ?
- Does the camera come with free cloud storage ?
- Does the camera have an SD card as well as cloud storage ?
- Is the camera SD card local storage only ?
- What is the frequency of the Wi-Fi network that the camera operates on- is it 2.4GHz or 5GHz, or both ? You need the internet.
- Check your router Wi-Fi frequencies to confirm they work with the camera.
- Is the camera wall mounting (this can be a pain) or freestanding ?
- What is the power supply ?
- If corded, what are the cable lengths etc. ?
- Does the camera have real “Night Vision” and not enhanced LED ?
- What is the angle of view of the camera ?
- Does the camera have “tilt and pan” ?
- Can the camera motion track a subject on the move once they are detected ?
- Can you watch in real time what is going on – “live-streaming” ?
- When you are viewing in real time, can you zoom in ?
- Does the camera allow you to select an exact area you are monitoring with it’s viewing angle ?
- Is the camera at least 720p, or better still 1080p resolution or higher ?
- Does the camera have two-way audio – “Two Way Talk Back” ?
- If the camera is battery operated, does it have a level indicator ?
- If the camera is battery operated, how long is the life of the battery ?
- If the camera is battery operated, how often does it need re-charging ?
- How often does the camera battery need recharging if you watch it in “Live Streaming mode” ?
- If the camera is battery operated, does it send you power level alerts ?
- Does the camera work with smartphones, tablets or pc’s, or does it work with all of them ?
Nanny Cameras –
Video Monitors + Smartphone Alerts + Two Way Talk
Nanny cameras are basically indoor security cameras. You have live stream video, and you receive motion detected alerts to your smartphone.
Just like with the Indoor Security Cameras, you have to download an app to your smartphone to be able to run the Nanny Camera.
They do not require a subscription plan because generally they have a SD card which stores any video footage.
They are much cheaper than all but the budget security cameras, but are apparently the most liable to being hacked.
So, if this is a worry, I wouldn’t use one.
I would get the budget security camera Tend Insights Lynx Indoor 2. It has a very good reputation, and comes with free cloud storage.
If you do want to try what a “Nanny Camera” I would just take a look on Amazon and check the reviews to see if customers are satisfied, or not.
If you decide to buy a Nanny Camera, use the checklist above for Indoor Security Cameras to help you remember what to look out for (ignore the first four points about cloud storage, as they don’t apply).
Indoor Video and Audio Monitoring Cameras with Motion Sensors – Cellular network (no internet connection required)
These cameras work in the same way as the Indoor Security Cameras which need the internet, except that they work on the cellular/mobile phone networks.
Netgear Arlo Go
- this indoor camera works on a mobile/cellular signal
- it uses a high-speed 3G/4G LTE cellular/mobile network and works nationwide with Arlo 4G LTE plans in the US
Reolink GO –
- this is another camera which works on a mobile/cellular signal
- this is an outdoor camera, but you can use it indoors if you have no internet
- it uses a 4GT-LTE and 3G cellular networks and works with a Vodafone or T-mobile plan in the US, and in the UK it works with mobile plans from Vodafone, EE, O2 and Telekom
- it needs a micro SIM card and a cellular/mobile data plan before it will work
- there is no two-way talk
- this camera has a slightly lower rating on Amazon of 3.7/5
If you decide to buy a security camera with on a mobile/cellular, use the checklist above for Indoor Security Cameras to help you remember what to look out for (ignore the first four points about cloud storage, and the internet, as they don’t apply).
Wireless Baby Monitors
I am just throwing an aside in here, in case anyone is looking for something even simpler than the most basic cameras.
Wireless bay monitors require no network, Wi-Fi, or otherwise, they work on a radio signal. Baby monitors have both a live-streaming image and audio.
They do not send alerts, and they have a limited range between the caregiver and their loved one.
If you wish to find out more, you will find them in my article on different type of bedroom monitoring, which you can read here.
Now that you’ve seen some simpler cameras and motion sensors for monitoring the elderly at home, you can take a look at much more comprehensive systems of remote monitoring for activity tracking, some with cameras, some not; telecare systems with sensors and cameras, sensors for the fridge, the stove, and doors; systems which combine both security and monitoring – all in this article here.
I hope this has been helpful !
I’m Gareth, the author and owner of Looking After Mom and Dad.com
I have been a caregiver for over 10 yrs and share all my tips here.