It is generally not a good idea to leave a person with Alzheimer’s alone. We are at the point in the progression of the disease where it is never a good idea. But, after a few days of company and a revolving door of caregivers, Mom needed her space and wanted to be left alone. I’m thankful for D-Link, a Wi-Fi camera which allows me to keep an eye on her while I sit in the apartment lobby and work on a bit of writing for my new blog. There are other security cameras out there, but this is the one we chose after doing a little comparison research. D-Link is affordable, easy to set up, allows for multiple cameras (in other rooms), and offers 15 feet of night-vision, and the ability to pan and tilt the camera remotely.
In the beginning, the camera afforded Momma the freedom to live alone in her apartment while we kept an eye on her and just came over several times a day to spend time with her. When we weren’t physically present, we would check on her regularly from our home five blocks away, heading over if it looked like she needed help. A phone app allowed us to check even if we were away from our computers or home.
At first, the presence of the cameras caused a bit of concern for Momma. She asked about them quite often, mostly curious as to what they were, why they were there, and who could see her. We tried to keep our response simple.
“It’s a camera that allows Cindie to check on you to see if you need help. She will know if you fall and can come and help you.”
Eventually, the cameras just faded into the background of daily life.
There came a day in the progression of the disease when Mom needed 24-hour physical presence. The camera now allows us the ability to “check-in” on Mom when she is being cared for by a professional caregiver. We have been blessed to find two amazing women to give Momma care. One comes for five hours on Friday nights so my husband and I can enjoy time together. The other comes for six hours on Sundays so I can continue to teach my Sunday School class, worship with our church family, and have lunch with my hubby. Wayne and I totally trust our caregivers, but I think the obvious presence of a camera creates an environment of perceived accountability. In our situation, the camera also shed light on some potential caregiving coaching opportunities. Momma was mildly complaining about one of her two caregivers. One day I spent a little time remotely observing their interactions. In doing so, I was able to see that the “problem” was mostly on Momma’s part. However, I was also able to identify a few behavior triggers and later offer some helpful suggestions for dealing with Momma.
As much as I appreciate this device, let me emphasize, cameras are not a substitute for personal care. I was reminded of this in my attempt to move to another part of the same building so that she could have a little space and privacy. It warmed my heart to see her enjoying her apartment on her own. I observed her straightening her pillows on the couch until they were just right (she’s very particular) and could hear her talking to herself, encouraging herself to keep moving. I was thankful to see she was using her walker as she moved into the kitchen and began wiping countertops, exploring the contents of the drawers, attempting to put away dishes, and then opening the fridge to pour herself a Diet Coke. Then back to her favorite chair giving her beverage a precarious ride on the seat of her walker.
But I apparently could not see everything she was up to. From this camera’s angle, I could see her seated in her favorite chair with her back to the camera enjoying her quiet world. Nothing unusual. Then I spotted something unusual in her hand, but couldn’t make it out. Then Mom placed the object on the seat of her walker within arm’s reach of her. I used D-Link’s zoom feature and discovered her previous kitchen tidying job had also included obtaining a partial tub of ice cream from the freezer.
It was time to head back to Momma’s apartment.
Momma will deny (and honestly can’t remember) polishing off that partial tub of ice cream, but the empty container and her tummy ache tell a different story.
Feeling a bit amused by my sneaky ice cream lovin’ Momma.