(This article appeared previously in Kaiser Health News.)
At first, Dr. Robert Zorowitz thought his 83-year-old mother was confused. She couldnt remember passwords to accounts on her computer. She would call and say programs had stopped working.
But over time, Zorowitz realized his mother a highly intelligent woman who was comfortable with technology was showing early signs of dementia.
Increasingly, families will encounter similar concerns as older adults become reliant on computers, cellphones and tablets. With cognitive impairment, these devices become difficult to use and, in some cases, problematic.
Computer skills may deteriorate even before [older adults] misplace keys, forget names or display other more classic signs of early dementia, Zorowitz wrote recently on a group email list for geriatricians. Hes the senior medical director for Optum., a health services company, in New York City.Deciding whether to block their access to their bank accounts, stocks and other online resources may present the same ethical dilemmas as taking away their car keys.
The emergence of this issue tracks the growing popularity of devices that let older adults communicate with friends and family via email, join interest groups on Facebook, visit virtually via Skype or FaceTime, and bank, shop, take courses or read publications online.
According to the Pew Research Center, 73% of adults 65 and older used the Internet in 2019, up from 43% in 2010. And 42% of older adults owned smartphones in 2017, the latest year for which data is available, up from 18% in 2013.
Instead of saying I have issues with my memory, people will say, I just cant figure out my smartphone...
Already, some physicians are adapting to this new digital reality. At Johns Hopkins Medicine, Dr. Halima Amjad, an assistant professor of medicine, now asks older patients if they use a computer or smartphone and are having trouble, such as forgetting passwords or getting locked out of accounts.
If theres a notable change in how someone is using technology, she said, we would proceed with a more in-depth cognitive evaluation.
At Rush Universitys Alzheimers Disease Center in Chicago, neurologist Dr. Neelum Aggarwal finds that older adults are bringing up problems with technology as a non-threatening way to talk about trouble with thinking.
Instead of saying, I have issues with my memory, people will say, I just cant figure out my smartphone or I was trying to start that computer program and it took forever to get that done.
If the person previously used digital devices without difficulty, Aggarwal will try to identify the underlying problem. Does the older adult have problems with vision or coordination? Is she having trouble understanding language? Is memory becoming compromised? Is it hard for her to follow the steps needed to complete a transaction?
If using technology has become frustrating, Aggarwal recommends deleting apps on cellphones and programs on computers.
The anxiety associated with Oh, my God, I have to use this and I dont know how totally sets people back and undoes any gains that technology might offer, she said. Its similar to what I do with medications: Ill help someone get rid of whats not needed and keep only whats really essential.
Typically, she said, she recommends no more than five to 10 cellphone apps for patients in these circumstances.
When safety becomes an issue say, for an older adult with dementia whos being approached by scammers on email family members should first try counseling the person against giving out their Social Security or credit card information, said Cynthia Clyburn, a social worker in the neurology division at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia.
If that doesnt work, try to spend time together at the computer so you can monitor whats going on. Make it a group activity, Clyburn said. If possible, create shared passwords so you have shared access.
But beware of appropriating someones passwords and using them to check email or online bank or brokerage accounts. Without consent, its a federal crime to use an individuals password to access their accounts, said Catherine Seal, an elder-law attorney at Kirtland & Seal in Colorado Springs, Colo. Ideally, consent should be granted in writing.
With his mothers permission, one of Zorowitzs brothers a physician in Baltimore installed GoToMyPC, an application that allowed him to remotely manage her computer. He used it to reset passwords and manage items on her desktop and sometimes to order groceries online from Peapod.
Eventually, Selma Zorowitz lost interest in her computer as she slipped further into dementia and spent the end of her life in a nursing home. She died in 2014 at age 87.
Older adults with Alzheimers disease commonly turn away from digital devices as they forget how to use them, said Dr. Lon Schneider, a professor of psychiatry and neurology at the University of Southern California.
More difficult, often, are situations faced by people with frontotemporal dementia (FTD), which affects a persons judgment, self-awareness and ability to assess risk.
Sally Balch Hurmes 75-year-old husband, Arthur, has FTD, diagnosed in 2015. Every day, this elder-law attorney and author struggles to keep him safe in a digital world full of threats.
Hundreds of emails pour onto Arthurs cellphone from telemarketers with hard-to-resist offers. His Facebook account is peopled with friends from foreign countries, all strangers. He has no idea who they are. Some of them are wearing bandoliers of ammunition, holding their guns, Hurme said. It is horrific.
Then, theres Amazon, a never-ending source of shopping temptation. Recently, Arthur ordered four pocket translators, several watches and a large quantity of maple sugar candies for $1,000. Though returns are possible, Hurme doesnt always know where Arthur has stored items hes bought.
What steps has she taken to manage the situation? With Arthurs permission, she unsubscribes him from accounts that send him emails and removes friends from his Facebook account. On his cellphone, she has installed a parental control app that blocks him from using it between midnight and 6 a.m. hours when he was most likely to engage in online activities. Theres also a parental control setting on the TV to prevent access to adult channels.
Instead of an open-ended credit card, Hurme gives Arthur a stored value card with a limited amount of money. She manages household finances, and he doesnt have access to the couples online banking account. Credit bureaus have been told not to open any account in Arthurs name.
If Hurme had her way, she said, shed get rid of Arthurs cellphone his primary form of communication. (He has stopped using the computer.) But Im very sensitive to respecting his dignity and letting him be as independent and autonomous as possible, she said. For all the dangers it presents, his phone is his connection with the outside world, and I cant take that away from him.
Judith Graham is a contributing writer to Kaiser Health News and Next Avenue.
Next Avenue brings you stories that are inspiring and change lives. We know that because we hear it from our readers every single day. One reader says,
"Every time I read a post, I feel like I'm able to take a single, clear lesson away from it, which is why I think it's so great."
Your generous donation will help us continue to bring you the information you care about. What story will you help make possible?
Next Avenue - 2019. All rights reserved.
Go here to read the rest:
- MIT Technology Review - January 27th, 2020
- Technology : NPR - January 27th, 2020
- A Storm Is Brewing In The Technology Sector - Traders Magazine - January 27th, 2020
- Four Acronyms That Spell Technology Disruption - Forbes - January 27th, 2020
- Ulrich spring exhibition explores the pros and cons of technology - Wichita State Sunflower - January 27th, 2020
- Ask the Builder: Plumbing technology has come a long way - The Spokesman-Review - January 27th, 2020
- Edwards sees both sides of technology - The Cross Timbers Gazette - January 27th, 2020
- New technology transforms the beauty industry - Fort Wayne's NBC - January 27th, 2020
- How This Father-And-Son Team Invented St. Louis' Latest Smart Technology - St. Louis Public Radio - January 27th, 2020
- New sanitary technology is available in WNC | Business - The Mountaineer - January 27th, 2020
- Rules have to catch up with technology - Examiner Enterprise - January 27th, 2020
- Goodyear to launch bicycle tires with graphene technology - Graphene-Info - January 27th, 2020
- The Week In Technology, Jan. 27-31, 2020 - Aviation Week - January 27th, 2020
- Met police to begin using live facial recognition cameras in London - The Guardian - January 27th, 2020
- Unique Toronto law firm to focus on responsible use of AI technology - The Globe and Mail - January 27th, 2020
- Do You Know What Lin Horn Technology Co., Ltd.s (GTSM:5464) P/E Ratio Means? - Simply Wall St - January 27th, 2020
- RCCI to organise Smart Technology Exhibition on Feb 3 - The Nation - January 27th, 2020
- Executive Column: We go beyond main cities in Indonesia: Here Technologies - Jakarta Post - January 27th, 2020
- How a Japanese Biotech Company Is Innovating Drug Development Technologies - SPONSOR CONTENT FROM THE GOVERNMENT OF JAPAN - Harvard Business Review - January 27th, 2020
- Technology allows us to appreciate Liverpool and Stokes winning in style - The Guardian - January 27th, 2020
- More Americans say they're lonely blame work and technology - WDEF News 12 - January 27th, 2020
- 'Technology will eat up everything ahead' - Emerging Europe - January 27th, 2020
- The Evolution of Bitcoin's Technology Stack - Cointelegraph - January 27th, 2020
- The Alabama School of Cyber Technology and Engineering is accepting applications - WHNT News 19 - January 22nd, 2020
- Why technology could be the key to powering the teachers of tomorrow - Techradar - January 22nd, 2020
- 5 ways technology will reshape the workforce in 2020 - ZDNet - January 22nd, 2020
- FIS Commits to Cincinnati as a Strategic Technology and Innovation Campus - Yahoo Finance - January 22nd, 2020
- How Technology Saved Chinas Economy - The New York Times - January 22nd, 2020
- Kiwi automated checkout start-up IMAGR announces backing from global technology heavy-weight - Yahoo Finance - January 22nd, 2020
- Ultra-thin materials are poised to transform technology - Archinect - January 22nd, 2020
- BigID Introduces New Discovery-in-Depth Technology to Give Organizations Unmatched Data Intelligence for Privacy, Protection and Perspective -... - January 22nd, 2020
- Is Momo (MOMO) Outperforming Other Computer and Technology Stocks This Year? - Yahoo Finance - January 22nd, 2020
- Whats the newest reason for your delayed PATH train? Blame technology. - NJ.com - January 22nd, 2020
- In Los Angeles, the Womens March embraces technology to organize and inspire - TechCrunch - January 22nd, 2020
- Technology isn't shaping work the way we think - Policy Options - January 22nd, 2020
- Sabre announces plans with Accor to create the first unified technology platform for the global hospitality industry - Yahoo Finance - January 22nd, 2020
- This Software Technology Firm is Reshaping the Asset Management Industry - Entrepreneur - January 22nd, 2020
- 'Frozen' Wardrobe Takes Technology, Math To Hit The Stage Every Night - CBS Los Angeles - January 22nd, 2020
- Which technology injects the most value into the insurance supply chain? - Insurance Business New Zealand - January 22nd, 2020
- Davos 2020: technology's opportunity in a cohesive and sustainable world - Information Age - January 22nd, 2020
- Antenna Technologies for IoT Applications, 2019 Report - The Antenna Start-up Ecosystem Has Adopted Unique Techniques to Comply With Existing &... - January 22nd, 2020
- Keysight Technologies Wins 2020 BIG Innovation Award - Yahoo Finance - January 22nd, 2020
- Electric drive technology to see boost from GKN and Delta Electronics - Automotive Testing Technology International - January 22nd, 2020
- MAN Cryo to supply icebreaking RoRos with technology - gasworld - January 22nd, 2020
- Google wants its users to find a better balance with technology - Ghacks Technology News - January 22nd, 2020
- To Survive Disruption, Build a Digital Technology Foundation - Which-50 - January 22nd, 2020
- Harry Potter: 10 Ways Technology Would Change The Series If I Was Set Today - Screen Rant - January 22nd, 2020
- Millions of Android phones in India to get this ISRO technology - Hindustan Times - January 22nd, 2020
- Which technology brings the most value to the insurance supply chain? - Insurance Business Australia - January 22nd, 2020
- 5G: India will no longer be behind technology curve, says Trai Chief - Economic Times - January 22nd, 2020
- The Rise And Fall Of The Technology Companies - Forbes - December 13th, 2019
- Understanding the ethics behind use of HR technology - Human Resource Executive - December 13th, 2019
- Konka Group, A China TV Technology Powerhouse, Announces Brand Expansion Into The United States And Canada - PRNewswire - December 13th, 2019
- These Are The Technologies That Will Transform The 2020s - From 5G To Vertical Farming - Forbes - December 13th, 2019
- The State and Technological Revolution | by Benedict Macon-Cooney - Project Syndicate - December 13th, 2019
- The AI community needs to take responsibility for its technology and its actions - MIT Technology Review - December 13th, 2019
- 4 Stocks to Play the Way Technology Is Changing Everything About Finance - Barron's - December 13th, 2019
- Watch Advancements to Discover How Technology is Altering our World - PR Web - December 13th, 2019
- How to Organize Your Life With the Help of Technology - Entrepreneur - December 13th, 2019
- Mambu taps into card processing technology with Marqeta partnership - IBS Intelligence - December 13th, 2019
- What Can the Police Tell From Your Digital Activities? - Technology Networks - December 13th, 2019
- Where are we in the information technology revolution? - Furniture Today - December 13th, 2019
- CES 2020: Bosch presents intelligent technology that is Invented for life - Automotive World - December 13th, 2019
- Secure Technology Alliance Announces New TWIC Security Training and Certification Program - HSToday - December 13th, 2019
- As battery technology charges forward, the transport industry is benefitting from real change - EuropeanCEO - December 13th, 2019
- Growing Cleveland's start-up culture could come from new technology and a new place to work - News 5 Cleveland - December 13th, 2019
- Emotion recognition technology should be banned, says an AI research institute - MIT Technology Review - December 13th, 2019
- Indian IT companies deploy hitech technologies at home and abroad - Economic Times - December 13th, 2019
- Mmmm... fresh, delicious tenders: Forget G-Cloud, this 6.5bn Technology Products and Associated Services framework is where it's at - The Register - December 13th, 2019
- Technology To Make Healthcare More Effective, Indian Rep Tells UN - Inc42 Media - December 13th, 2019
- Scientists at School of Mines and Technology create a tool that drastically lowers medication prices - Kotatv - December 13th, 2019
- Port Authority To Look Into Technology That Could Save Bridge And Tunnel Carpool Discount - CBS New York - December 13th, 2019
- Universities at the forefront of technological innovation - Study International News - December 13th, 2019
- Heilind Asia Wins the 6th China IoT Technology Innovation Award - Business Wire - December 13th, 2019
- New Jersey Self-driving technology will be tested on some NJ buses Greg Mocker 7:31 - WPIX 11 New York - December 13th, 2019
- What does it take for teachers to make smart use of technology in classrooms? - The Dallas Morning News - December 13th, 2019
- Academics and 'The Intelligence Trap' | Technology and Learning - Inside Higher Ed - December 13th, 2019
- From AR to AI: The emerging technologies marketers can explore to enable and disrupt - Marketing Tech - December 13th, 2019
- Inflation-target renewal, impact of technology highlight Bank of Canada's 2020 work plan, Governor Poloz says - Bank of Canada - December 13th, 2019
- How Technology Is Transforming Executive Coaching - Harvard Business Review - December 1st, 2019