Video Monitoring for your Elder Parents or Loved Ones

When might be a good time to consider monitoring your elderly parents or loved ones? Most retired people would rather be independent and stay home, and of course, we would like to help them do so. Like me, so many of us have had to live at great distances from our parents to make a living that we can’t see them but a few times a year.

A few years ago my father started tripping and losing his balance around the house. I thought he was probably just clumsy, and after retirement, less careful, but I was wrong. He was probably having “mini” strokes responsible for his falls. Luckily at that time, my mother was still strong and able to care for him. If not for her, in retrospect I should not have waited for him to exhibit these problems.

So when? There are no guidelines. But first I would check to see if your parent(s) is at risk of falling. I would also check for any risk factors of developing dementia (insert my link here).

I found a very interesting way to score your one’s risk of getting dementia at 5, 10 and 20 years with the following tables:

Table 1:

Risk factors Categories Points
Age at baseline, years 60–69 0
70–79 6
Over 80 12
Marital status Single 2
Married 0
Formerly married 1
BMI Underweight 4
Normal 0
Overweight −1
Stroke No 0
Yes 5
Diabetes No 0
Yes 2
Ischemic attack No 0
Yes 4
Cancer No 0
Yes 2


Table 2

5-year 10-year 20-year
Point total Estimate of risk, % Point total Estimate of risk, % Point total Estimate of risk, %
−1 1.7 −1 5.8 −1 15.8
0 2.0 0 6.8 0 18.5
1 2.4 1 8.0 1 21.5
2 2.8 2 9.4 2 25.0
3 3.3 3 11.1 3 28.9
4 3.9 4 13.0 4 33.3
5 4.6 5 15.3 5 38.1
6 5.5 6 17.9 6 43.5
7 6.4 7 20.8 7 49.2
8 7.6 8 24.2 8 55.2
9 9.0 9 28.0 9 61.4
10 10.5 10 32.3 10 67.7
11 12.4 11 37.1 11 73.9
12 14.5 12 42.3 12 79.7
13 17.0 13 48.0 13 84.9
14 19.8 14 53.9 14 89.4
15 23.1 15 60.1 15–31 >90
16 26.7 16 66.4
17 30.9 17 72.6
18 35.5 18 78.5
19 40.5 19–31 >80
20 46.1
21 51.9
22 58.1
23–31 >60

(taken from Li et al:

Basically the higher the score, the higher the chance of acquiring dementia. You might notice that even if one has no risk factors at all, one still has a baseline 15% chance in 20 years of acquiring it. But I’d start by looking at the 5-year risk score. It seems that in many fields of medicine the number “15%” is a “magic” cutoff for many decisions. So a score of around 12 would yield a 5-year 15% risk. Being over 80 would automatically put one of your parents or loved ones in that category, but a person in their 70s with some health problems would also meet that score. Still, even though 15% might be somebody’s rule of thumb, you should develop your own threshold after discussing this with your parents.

Now combined with their risk of falls, I’d venture to say that almost 50% of people starting in their mid-seventies would benefit from some kind of monitoring program, despite their good performance status they enjoy today. Like in my case, these things can sneak up on you, and it’s simply better to be safe than sorry.

When to consider elder monitoring

My first thought now is, if he allowed it, maybe I could have installed a remote camera to check in on him from time to time. If I depended on phoning him instead, I might have missed a major fall. But would my wife or I be there to monitor him all day?

But for some families, video monitoring is still a great option. Video monitoring wi-fi based cameras, affectionately known to some as nanny or granny cams, have become more and more popular to monitor your home which can be done remotely via a smartphone, tablet or PC. More recently they are being used to keep an eye on our elderly parents or loved ones.

One thing for sure is that your parents (or uncle/aunt) should give you their consent for any monitoring system if they are able; (some states make it illegal not to get their consent!). Hackers can access cameras too, so make sure you place a strong password when you set up your camera and encrypt your wi-fi too. Don’t forget to register your device as well for any updates or recalls.

Some things you would look for include night vision, wide-view angle lenses, and HD quality. An important feature you should also look for is two-way audio to communicate with your elder loved one. Built-in motion and sound detection is a plus. Video recording allows you to review from the cloud.

One of the best products available today that does all this and more is the Nest Cam, which costs $199, but if you want their video recording option, it’s an extra $100 per year for a 10-day video history or $300/year for 30 days.

Also check out the Piper NV, which – at about $290 – costs more than the Nest Cam but allows free Internet cloud storage. Their “classic” “Piper” version is about $150 however.

The Simplicam, is the cheapest of these three. The camera is currently $99 or you can add 24-hour video storage for one year for an added cost. The camera gives good HD video, provides a wide field of vision, and has “smart” motion detection (human only motion). It allows you to record, store and share footage with police or neighbors as well.

Sensor Monitoring

For the elderly who don’t want any visual monitoring and want more privacy, a wi-fi based “sensor” monitoring system might be the answer. The system could detect certain activity changes in the elders’ daily patterns and alert you through a mobile app alert you for suspicious changes. For example, if your father opens the refrigerator every day for 2 years for breakfast, and one day doesn’t do that, you would get an alert, and you could call him to check in.

Grandcare is an all in one program that has motion sensors, the ability to see if your parent is wandering outside, and “action” buttons they can wear or mount on a wall that alert you through your phone. It can even send you some “vital” signs such as their weight, blood pressure, sugar readings, or temperature. They even let you do video calling and share photos.

“” also provides this kind of service called “Wellness” that allows you to monitor your parents’ or loved ones’ activity patterns, or check up on them anytime you want through their mobile app. It also can be integrated with the “PERS” personal emergency response pendants.

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