On her way to work in the morning, Mary Zumbo drops her mother, Janice Zumbo, off at the Bright Horizons day care program for seniors. Then, she gets back in her car, drives to her office and prepares to start her day but not before checking in on her mother via Web camera.
Zumbo is experimenting with a new program that has been offered by Bright Horizons since Tuesday, April 29, where family members and friends can watch their relatives in the day care facility as they participate throughout the day in the activities the program has to offer.
A lot of families have called and asked what their relatives are doing during the day,` said Erin Szesnat, adult day services site director for Bright Horizons. `With [the Web cams] they can actually see what their loved ones are doing during the day.`
Szesnat said that while the idea to have cameras taping the seniors during the day was born from the questions and concerns of many family members of the seniors in the program. She said she was surprised to find that there were no programs similar to this in the area. In fact, according to Szesnat, the program Bright Horizons launched last week is only similar to two other programs she found, both for children though, and one being in Texas.
Executive Director of Colonie Senior Service Centers Ed Neary said the Web cam program is designed exclusively for caregivers.
`There is a peace that the caregivers get from being able to see [the seniors] when they are not able to be here in person,` said Neary.
Neary’s description matched Zumbo’s explanation of why she has been using the program since its launch.
`When you drop the people off in the morning, these are long days they’re spending in the program,` she said. `It does let you not worry to be able to see them.`
To log on to watch the seniors, all the caregiver has to do is go to the Bright Horizons Web site, click on the link to the Web cam, type in a user name and password, and choose a room, out of three, to view. Neary said that while the program is being rolled out, anyone can log on to see the rooms, however, passwords will soon only be provided to caregivers.
From there, caregivers will be able to check in on their senior family members as many times per day, days per week and whatever time they choose.
`I usually log on around 10:30 or 11 [a.m.],` said Zumbo, who says she logs on two to three times per day to make sure her mother is OK.
Zumbo said that when seniors get to a certain age, they can begin to become a constant worry.
`You don’t know until they fall and break their hip that they need to be in the program,` she said. That is, in fact what happened to Janice. It was after her fall that Zumbo decided her mother should be in the Bright Horizons program, where she would be active, yet monitored, on a daily basis.
Zumbo said that while she has faith in the program itself, she has always been one to stop in and check on her mother. Thanks to the new Web cam, she can check in without leaving her desk.
`It’s a really reassuring thing,` she said. `All you really need to know is that they’re doing fine.`
Szesnat said that the camera system can also be used to confirm to caregivers that their loved ones are remaining active during the day.
She described one man who acts as a leader during the day at the program.
`He even leads Bingo,` said Szesnat. `People come in and think he’s a volunteer.`
When the man returns home to his wife, however, he sits in his chair, lethargic, without speaking much at all.
Neary and Szesnat said this type of behavior begins to concern the caregivers, leading them to believe the seniors act the same way at the program and are not making the best of their lives. But now, families will be able to see what the seniors are doing during the day.
Zumbo was in disbelief when she called Bright Horizons and was told her mother was playing cards.
`My mother never plays cards!` she said.
Zumbo said another element of the new technology is the conversations it brings on.
`They don’t usually remember at the end of the day what they did. My mother doesn’t play cards, and she was playing cards,` said Zumbo. `I said, ‘Mom, I saw you were playing cards today.’ She said she had a great time.`
The new technology of the Bright Horizons program is two-fold: One part lets caregivers view their loved ones through the cameras in all three rooms. The other allows the caregiver to actually sit down and talk to the senior while looking at them through Web cam using the computer-telephone communication program Skype.
The program works much like a telephone. The difference is that if both parties have Web cams, they can actually see the person as they talk.
Zumbo said she has not yet used this part of the program, but she plans to in the near future.
Lynn Otty, a program assistant at Bright Horizons, said she is impressed with the technology Bright Horizons has implemented, and she wishes she were able to watch her own parents in the same way.
`It would be wonderful just to be able to see my parents,` said Otty. `You always want to know how your loved ones are taken care of.`
Szesnat said Bright Horizons has already received much positive feedback about the program. According to Neary, the main goal is to have everyone comfortable with the program.“