Surveillance: seniors and their families struggle with debate

I s surveillance a good thing? Touchy subject. On one hand, safety. On the other hand, abuse of privacy.

So let’s look at a couple different scenarios in surveillance:

Edward Snowden’s release of classified documents uncovered the existence of numerous global surveillance programs, many of them run by the NSA and the "Five Eyes" (U. S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and UK) with the cooperation of telecommunication companies and European governments. It has catalyzed the debate over the past 12 months about surveillance and privacy.

Use of surveillance tech to monitor seniors at home is on the rise. A remote monitoring system uses a series of cameras and motion sensors placed around a home to detect patterns and monitor safety. When these sensors and cameras note something out of the ordinary, a text is sent to the caregiver to alert them something may be wrong. The caregiver can then check on their loved one through cameras or call them to see if there really is an emergency.

In a CBC report, a Canadian monitoring system company executive stated, "It was meant to create safety and security for the senior, and it was meant to alleviate the stress of the caregiver. Seniors get to live where they want to live. Caregivers get to grant their parents their wishes, and do so without having the burden placed on them."

Does it make you think of surveillance in a different way? Well, of course, the context is quite different.

Here’s a practical example. Your aging mom is forgetting to take her medications and leaving the front door wide open some days. So you have a monitoring system put in place that tracks when her medication cupboard is open and closed, and also tracks when the front door is open and closed. Failure to open the medication cupboard, and failure to close the door result in text messages sent directly to your phone to let you know something’s amiss. It even tells you if she didn’t get out of bed, or if movement isn’t detected. Pretty great system for safeguarding a parent’s security.

So are seniors accepting this loss of privacy to significantly increase their safety at home? Yes! And no. The opinions are divided amongst seniors. Some are willing to accept the monitoring so that they can remain living at home. Others will not give up privacy in their own home in exchange for the potential safety benefits.

It will remain divided.

In any case, remote monitoring is here.

Sons and daughters that are using it for aging parents are finding it the next best thing to poking their head in the door every hour to ask "is everything fine?" Without the trip over each time of course! For the senior, it’s about safety. But for the daughters and sons it’s about stress relief. And what’s that worth? You and your aging parents will have to judge that together.

Chris Wilkinson is the owner/GM for Nurse Next Door Home Care Services for Cowichan and central Vancouver Island. For questions or a free in-home consultation call 250-748-4357, or email Chris at Cowichan@NureNextDoor. com