You are a caregiver to your parent, but you live 4 hours away and can’t be there to help with everyday activities. Technology can help, but only if you and your parent(s) are able to understand and use it effectively.
Each year in Las Vegas the Consumer Electronics Show rolls out new and innovative technology products. From wearable medical technology, to smart homes and smart fabrics, virtual reality and robots, the wares that are on display at this trade show are dazzling. Many of these tools and products benefit older Americans, particularly those who are aging in place. However, technology is only as good as the user that operates it, and if a senior user has trouble integrating technology into his or her lifestyle, it can become a source of frustration rather than a solution to life’s challenges.
Continuous product refinements, upgrades and new versions of technology create a lifelong education process for seniors. Who will educate them about new technology features? Who will provide the expertise to integrate software updates and be sure there is frictionless functioning in a senior’s smart home? Who will show them how to access those great features on their new smart phone or answer their new video-enhanced doorbell?
If that family member is you, here are some tips to help you guide an older family member in using technology:
- Recognize they need your help! Even if they do not say it, seniors often need the help of younger family members as they struggle to stay abreast of the latest technological innovations. Keep a calm and relaxed demeanor and repeat key concepts. Start with small amounts of information in order not to overwhelm them. Provide an overview of the product first, then break the instructions into subsets over time. Always start a learning session with a review of what was covered in your last meeting together. A small flow chart with key concepts will help reinforce their learning.
- Purchase “senior-friendly” devices: Be sure to purchase technology that is designed with the senior user in mind. Many technology products are not “user-friendly” or intuitive and will simply overwhelm and frustrate your loved one. Do some web-surfing and find those devices that cater to seniors.
- Move slowly so your senior has time to process what you are saying: Pausing between steps and then repeating from the beginning of a process helps to reinforce learning through repetition. Also, stop and ask your senior if they are following along well or if you are moving too quickly. Encourage them to ask questions.
- Let them interact with and drive the product: It is essential that a senior tech user fully engages with the product in order to really learn how to use it. While it may be tempting to help them by finishing up a task, it is better to let your family member struggle a bit and complete the execution on their own. Hands on learning is a better teacher than abstract instructions.
Remember that learning how to operate a new product, such as a smart phone or even the television remote control, can be frustrating for anyone, and even more so for a senior who may be experiencing some memory loss or decline in their cognitive function. Be engaging, patient and positive. Let these “teachable moments” allow you to enjoy special time one-on-one time with your senior loved one.
Caring for a loved one while using technology can play an important role in the overall plan for aging successfully.
For assistance with long term care planning, please contact our offices at 678-319-0100.