Home Security: Keeping Seniors Safe at Home
With the senior population on the rise, the U.S. Census Bureau has now projected that by 2030, older people will outnumber children for the first time ever. This is, of course, due to the general population trends over the past century plus the increased life expectancy. Most seniors would prefer to stay in their own homes as they age, but this can put them in a very vulnerable position when it comes to their safety and security. There are many potential hazards in a senior’s home, including when it comes to increasing physical limitations seeing as slips and falls are two of the most commonplace accidents in older people.
Most local areas have at least one Agency on Aging that can provide seniors with all kinds of advice and support regarding senior safety at home. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is a great resource for veterans and their caregivers, as it provides various options including a “housebound allowance” for eligible seniors who are confined to their own homes for health reasons.
For financial assistance, seniors should all look into:
- Medicare Savings Program
- Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
These can truly help lift part of the financial burden of independence and allow seniors to grow older in their own homes. The HIPAA website outlines seniors’ right to privacy when it comes to their medical information and MedlinePlus is a solid resource for information on drugs, supplements, and medical conditions in general.
For those with disabilities, the ADA National Network “provides information, guidance and training on how to implement the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in order to support the mission of the ADA to assure equality of opportunity, full participation, independent living, and economic self-sufficiency for individuals with disabilities.” The U.S. Senate website and the U.S. House of Representatives website can also direct seniors to the relevant congresspeople and their own websites that have contacts who can assist in getting senior care.
Aside from the assistance programs and services outlined above, an easy, cost-effective way to keep seniors safe is through a home security system. Luckily, there is a constantly increasing amount of options when it comes to home security so many seniors are able to find one that works for them.
Establishing Home Safety Steps
The first step to establishing home safety is to determine what the biggest risk factors in the home are. As mentioned, falls are a huge problem in older people and measures should be taken to prevent them. There are many rails and bars on the market that can be installed throughout the house and provide more stability. Loose rugs are a major fall hazard, so consider installing non-slip rugs instead. Lighting is also very important, especially at night because seniors’ eyesight is usually not as sharp as it once was. Fire hazards such as stoves should also be avoided, and in the case that a fire does break out, a smoke/fire alarm and a fire extinguisher are essential to have around.
Considering a Security Camera for Safety – Pros and Cons
Installing a security camera to monitor an elderly individual can allow everyone involved to feel more comfortable with the fact that he or she is living alone. Being able to look at the camera feed and know a loved one is okay without having to call or visit can bring a lot of relief to the entire family. This, of course, includes making sure the senior hasn’t fallen or experienced a medical episode, but also provides assurance that nobody has come into the house uninvited. These are also great tools that can make sure seniors with dementia or related conditions are not wandering out of the house and getting lost.
The obvious downside to installing a security camera is that many seniors feel they are a threat to their independence. Seniors must consent to having a camera installed in their homes, and installing a camera without consent can lead to legal ramifications. This is made even harder if a senior is experiencing major cognitive decline and decisions are being made by a family member, friend, or even an attorney. Another downside can be the cost of equipment and installation depending on what camera systems are purchased. Of course, higher quality cameras will cost more but the price is normally worth it if it means a loved one will be safe.
What to Ask When Considering a Home Camera
Before installing a camera, some questions need to be considered. Firstly, deciding how many cameras are necessary and how many areas need to be covered is critical when considering a home security system. Many cameras allow motion alerts, meaning loved ones can be notified whenever there is movement in the rooms. This is helpful because users can make sure the senior has not fallen or had any other sort of accident.
Poor lighting can affect the quality of a camera feed, so it is also critical to position any camera where it gets the best lighting in order to see the senior and the full room clearly. Lastly, consider the price and the budget available for the home camera(s). A local security camera installer from Task Rabbit can provide an estimate or users can pick the best system based on their needs if they opt to self-install.
Home Security Monitoring Options for Seniors
Of course, home security cameras are a popular choice when looking for a home security monitoring system for seniors (more on those below), but many people also opt for special motion detectors. These include glass break sensors, which provide an alert if they sense glass breaking from, for example, an intruder, as well as freeze sensors that alert users if temperatures have dropped and there is a risk of pipes freezing and bursting. Heat sensors are also available and will detect rising temperatures and sound an alarm even if smoke is not present. Medical alert systems are also a very common monitoring option and allow seniors to send a signal that they are having a health crisis or some other sort of emergency. Many of these are monitored by emergency medical technicians and provide two-way talk capabilities so seniors can be sent the proper help they are in need of.
Types of Cameras
There are various types of cameras on the market today including two-way audio security cameras, Pan Tilt Zoom (PTZ) cameras, fixed cameras, and 360-degree cameras. PTZ cameras are exactly as they sound – they are able to pan, tilt, and zoom in on a target (i.e. a person). The zoom range will vary by camera model, with more expensive cameras understandably having a greater zoom range. Fixed cameras are possibly the most common choice and normally don’t have any moving parts but can be positioned in one spot that can see a set area at all times. A third type of camera is a 360 Degree camera, which provides the most comprehensive, full views of a room in every direction aside from obstacles (e.g. dressers, doors).
Where to Install Security Cameras
Once it is decided what type of camera(s) will be best, deciding where to install them is the next critical step. Every home is different, so it is important to decide exactly what areas are the most dangerous and make the senior most vulnerable to a fall or other sort of accident. While circumstances vary from house-to-house, stairways are normally a crucial place to put a camera. Stars are dangerous in general but can be even worse for seniors, especially if the stairs are slippery and the rail is unreliable and flimsy.
The kitchen is another great location to put a camera, as this is the room that likely has the highest fire hazard due to the cooking appliances. Installing a camera in the kitchen can ensure not only that a senior has not started a fire, but also that he or she has eaten throughout the day. Doors are also extremely important spots to monitor, as they can detect a loved one going in and out but also catch unwelcome intruders in the home. Many thieves enter through the front or back door, so it is a good idea to set up cameras at these locations. Of course, these will also allow users to see welcomed visitors including home-health staff.
Where to Put a Home Camera
As described, choosing where exactly to place cameras throughout a house is a critical step. Standalone cameras can be placed on desks, shelves, tables, and so on and are easily movable and adjustable. Mounted cameras, on the other hand, can be placed on walls and ceilings and should always be positioned properly and sturdily. Outdoor cameras should generally be mounted up high to prevent theft. Of course, a combination of standalone and mounted cameras might be the best option in certain homes in order to cover full areas and make sure all footage is being captured.
Look for User-Friendly Devices with Options to Expand
Home security systems on TV sometimes look like a real hassle to use and maintain, but this is far from the truth. Many devices on the market are very user-friendly and don’t require much setup or maintenance, plus most offer extra features and services should consumers want them. The extent of surveillance and interaction is much more limitless than it used to be, so anyone should be able to find a security system that has the bells and whistles they are looking for. Intricate home security systems can take a while to install and must be done by a professional, but websites such as Amazon have plenty of lesser-intense cameras that can be set up and running within minutes.
Make Use of Live Streaming and Monitoring
Investing in a home security system for a senior will allow loved ones to watch him or her in real-time to lessen their worries. Live viewing is very useful when a loved one is engaged in a possibly dangerous activity like cooking or going up and down stairs. The ability to keep an eye on a senior at home brings comfort that he or she is doing well and no accidents have occurred.
Enable Life-Saving Communication with Two-Way Talk Features
As outlined above, two-way talk features of medical alert systems can get seniors the type of help they need, and this also applies to cameras. Being able to verbally communicate with a senior loved one from a remote location can help a user be sure he or she is well and does not need help.
Look for Integration with Smart Home Platforms
Many security cameras and systems can now be integrated with smart home platforms like Google Home and Alexa. On a basic level, users can arm/disarm cameras as well as turn alarms on and off, but more advanced cameras may also allow users to do more.
Overall, there are many different options available when deciding what type of home security system consumers should get to ensure a senior loved one is safe. Determining what methods of security would be best for a senior’s specific situation is the first step to deciding what products to purchase that will give caregivers peace of mind and help them relax knowing their loved one is protected in his or her home.
Useful Resources for Seniors:
- Administration for Community Living
- American Geriatric Society Home Safety Tips
- American Seniors Housing Association
- Assoc. for the Protection of the Elderly
- Family Caregiver Alliance
- National Aging in Place Council Recommendations
- National Council on Aging resources for seniors and caregivers
- National Family Caregivers Association
- Senior Resources – FirstGov.gov
- The FBI – Fraud Target: Senior Citizens