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Can you recommend a good IP/Web camera for monitoring an infirm pensioner?

Screenshot 2014-07-16 22.15.48

I’ve got a challenge that’s been presented to me by a relative (I’m keeping this one as anonymous as possible). One of my relative’s parents is becoming increasingly infirm. The parent lives in elderly accommodation and they have one of those ‘red button’ alarm services installed, activated either by pulling a cord or by using the dongle you hang around your neck.

This is all well and good… until, that is, you’re dealing with an infirm parent who can’t remember things. It’s irrelevant whether the memory loss is caused by alzheimer’s, dementia or just old age. If you fall and then don’t recall that you’re wearing a dongle with an emergency button to summon help right-away, there’s not much alternative but to wait — sometimes overnight — to be discovered.

The parent has now fallen twice in the bathroom in the middle of the night and had to wait until late mornings to be rescued. This can of course be remedied by having the warden call every morning at 8am. Which still leaves a huge amount of time for accidents to happen and an unnecessary amount of time left lying on the floor (perhaps in some pain).

Things are complicated even more when the parent insists on having no additional help — and, further, when they prefer to avoid calling out in the middle of the night, perhaps to avoid inconveniencing neighbours (or, perhaps to avoid dealing with the embarrassment of one’s situation — a natural response).

So… I suggested installing a web camera that my relative could use to remotely check on the parent. I was thinking we could install the camera in the main living room area which would help give my relative an idea if the parent is ‘ok’. We were also giving some thought to placing a camera in the bedroom, strategically located to be able to indicate whether the parent is in bed or not (whilst retaining the privacy of the parent). My relative will then be able to check-in regularly across the day and night to check that the parent is ok

My relative really likes the idea. So much that they’ve got BT to install an internet connection. They’ve checked with the parent in question who also likes and has approved the concept too.

I’m thinking of something like a Withings Smart Baby Monitor.

Here are the requirements, I’m hoping you’ll be able to suggest a model that I can buy.

  • My relative needs to be able to use a native app on their iPhone to connect to the webcam feed
  • The native app has to be well laid out
  • The webcam unit needs to have decent security protocols
  • The webcam should be able to deliver both audio and video — I also like the idea of ‘two way’ communication although I’m not sure how useful that would actually be given the delays that I’ve witnessed with the likes of the Withings Baby Monitor
  • The webcam should use Wi-Fi so it can be positioned away from the router without wiring
  • It would be ideal if we could hook up multiple cameras to the same app

I do like the idea of going even further and installing some kind of monitor that will send an alert when the parent goes *into* the bathroom and when they don’t return to the bedroom after X minutes. That would probably be even more useful than a webcam but I couldn’t find anything that does this (easily and consumer-grade-easy too!)

Do you have any ideas or suggestions?

Update: I bought a camera…


  1. Fairly certain you can also get the red button type devices fitted with motion sensors that send an alert the person hasn’t moved. Can’t remember where I saw them, but might be worth looking at Tunstall which is company I worked with 20+ years ago and is now one of the world’s biggest telecare manufacturers.

  2. Definitely Dropcam. They’re not ‘officially’ supported in the UK, but that shouldn’t stop you. Latest software update includes the ability draw an area on the cameras field of view so you can receive motion alerts in that area, so I think it’ll suit you fine. Also, go for the “Pro” model – much better optics and infra-red visibility at night.


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