Paul Baratta headshot
Paul Baratta

People often make the mistake of associating surveillance with crime prevention. And although it’s true that surveillance cameras often are deployed to detect and prevent crimes such as theft and assault, that isn’t all they’re good for. Thanks to the advent of artificial intelligence and machine learning tools — as well as improved chipsets with increased processing power — modern surveillance devices have capabilities that go far beyond traditional security. In fact, many senior living and care facilities have found that today’s video and audio analytics solutions have helped them improve resident safety in new and surprising ways.

Wide-ranging functionality

Keeping residents safe obviously is a major priority for senior living and care facilities, and modern surveillance technology can help accomplish that mission in a variety of ways.

Some are straightforward — naturally, elder abuse or other mistreatment at the hands of visitors or staff should be captured on camera and dealt with accordingly. But today’s devices allow communities to be proactive rather than reactive. Video analytics can be trained to detect signs of aggressive behaviors, whereas audio analytics can detect raised voices and other potential signs of danger. They can then alert the appropriate personnel, who can intervene before the situation has a chance to escalate. It’s also important to note that a cry of pain also can indicate a fall or other medical emergency. Training the system to send an immediate alert can dramatically reduce response times, potentially saving lives.

Unfortunately, many residents of senior living and care facilities have a tendency to become confused. Some may wander the premises, only to become lost and unable to remember how to return to their rooms. Today’s cameras can be integrated with “wandering” software designed to track resident movements. They even can be integrated with real-time locating systems capable of recognizing individual residents. They then can be tagged and tracked, allowing care and service providers to know their location at all times.

For riskier residents, such as those considered a fall risk, communities can use digital fencing to send an alert when residents leave their beds or attempt to exit their rooms. Most recently, AI analytics are providing better information to staff with alarm notifications for “out of bed” activities and for residents who are lying on the floor or are motionless. Slip, trip and fall cases are common in senior living and care facilities and represent a significant risk to the residents and staff members alike. Modern analytics can reduce those risks dramatically, and when an event does occur, can be used to document any incidents.

Those analytics also can be integrated with access control solutions. Long-term care facilities often don’t have 24-hour security on the premises, which can make after-hours entry a challenge. Door intercoms integrated with video analytics can allow approved family members to visit residents at any time. Residents can remotely unlock the door for a family member without the need to travel all the way to the community entrance, which further reduces the risk of a fall. Additionally, as visitor desks usually are not staffed between 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. in most communities, family members easily can leave or enter a long-term-care facility after hours using intercoms tied directly to staff cellphones.

It is important to note that those individual technologies work best when they are part of an end-to-end solution. A good video management system, or VMS, can be stand-alone on premises or part of a larger solution and can allow community administrators to access the wide range of tools at their disposal from a single dashboard — and, ideally, from a mobile device. Not only can easy-to-use VMS systems make it easier for administrators to manage their surveillance networks on premises, but they also can allow them to observe residents, unlock doors, use video intercoms and perform other essential functions remotely. When it comes to senior living and care facilities, an end-to-end solution is usually best due to ease of use and maintenance.

Prioritizing senior safety

Keeping older adults safe can be a challenge, but modern surveillance technology has put incredible new tools in the hands of community leaders. Thanks to video and audio analytics technology, communities can use solutions such as digital fencing, resident tracking, fall detection, remote access control, voice detection and more. In addition, staff members proactively can respond to real-time emergencies and resident needs.

Typically thought of as strictly security technology, today’s surveillance devices are proving that they go far beyond traditional “security” applications, contributing to overall resident safety in important new ways.

Paul Baratta is business development manager, healthcare, at Axis Communications.

The opinions expressed in each McKnight’s Senior Living marketplace column are those of the author and are not necessarily those of McKnight’s Senior Living.

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