Aunt Online

Again yesterday I found a journey by car heart wrenching. I drove from the marina to visit Aunt. Each turn in the road a reminder of those days driving to and from Mother. I had thought I was beginning to scab over. These journeys tell me that there is a lot of healing yet to go. It’s not a bad thing. More a reality check.
At Aunt’s, where she had soup ready, we played with tablets and smart phones. Her wonderful cleaner, Linda, was there. She seldom emails, leaving it to the men in her family. So we had a three way message sending session. Linda, to her delight, realised how easy it is to send photos. Aunt received two pictures of her cat Charlie in various sleeping poses.
Aunt became pretty proficient at turning the tablet on and off, finding her email, opening it. Seeing the picture. I sent her some of MasterB and some from my ‘phone of mother in the last days. She finds typing laborious, not being familiar with keyboards. I suggested she could acknowledge emails with a smiley face. She liked that idea. She just needs to do the eyes before the mouth, and we’ll have lift off.
While Aunt and I were working out how to download the pix, and where they should be stored, I had a sudden hallucinatory experience. I could hear Mother’s voice. I looked up, startled, as Linda came in from the kitchen with a little video she had made on her ‘phone of Mother with Aunt some months ago. How amazing, how precious to have a recording of Mother’s voice.
It was quite an intensive afternoon. Aunt is very much motivated by seeing how she can receive pictures and articles via email. Next I shall buy her the USB adaptor so she can learn to copy the photos and display them on her electronic photo frame. I think yesterday that Linda and I both managed to convince her that would be better than printing the photos and keeping them in a drawer.
As Linda was so excited, I have high hopes that the pair of them will keep practising and Aunt will become comfortable and proficient. She is certainly much less nervous of the technology than she was. We increased the font size, changed the timing of the screen saver.
She has been diagnosed with Macular Degeneration, and it may be that the e book reader app on the Samsung will enable her to read for longer. That’s for another day. But her comment, ” It opens up a whole new world,” bodes well.
She lives in a retirement complex. It would surely be a good idea to help her and others like her to use technology that can prolong independence. If the weather is bad next winter and she learns how to order her groceries online, it means she can avoid being out in snow and ice.
Naturally a lot of our conversation was about Mother yesterday. We reflected a lot on the standards of care we had witnessed in the Home. None of us felt there were enough staff with enough time to give Mother, or anyone else, the attention and stimulation needed. Some of the carers were fantastic, others, despite working on a unit for people living with dementia, seemed to have little understanding of the complexities of the condition. Their pay is poor, and their working conditions organised by a private company which is in this business primarily to make money, whatever its brochures say. Mother’s favourite carer, Aaron, who developed a real bond with her, and read poetry he freely admitted he did not understand to her, left to earn higher wages in an office. He had a vocation for caring, and it reflects badly on us that we do not pay such people enough to retain them.
Linda also told a shocking story of another of her clients whose dementia has increased rapidly. He lives alone, has started going out late at night on his buggy, muddling up his belongings, taking food out of the fridge. He has been waiting for an assessment for six weeks, and a date has still not been fixed. His neighbours are trying to keep an eye on him, his son lives at a distance. Linda has called to ask when the assessment will be, and been told to back off. The chances of this man doing something that will result in injury to himself or others are surely high. Yet he is not a priority. Which suggests that there are an awful lot of people living confused and dangerous lives.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.

22 thoughts on “Aunt Online

  1. Sounds like a good visit with your Aunt. My sister-in-law’s Mom is approaching 90 and lives in a retirement village. She has macular degeneration and is so thrilled to have the ability to increase typeface size to do her reading online with the PC sister-in-law bought for her. She also has ambulation issues so because she can’t go out and about much anyway. It’s times like this when we can really SEE how wonderful modern technology can be in keeping older folks with health issues, etc. “in the loop” and able to do the things they love to do like reading.


    • Yes, Pam, I so agree. But with your sister-in-law’s Mum, and my aunt, it is the family who has equipped them with the technology. I believe it should be available, with someone to help, to all residents.

      • I agree….I believe (although it’s been a few years) that they were in the process of adding a couple of computers to the little library in the nursing home where my Mom was. She was too far gone at that point to take advantage but hopefully those that could, did. It keeps your world a bit larger.


  2. It is so wonderful that you took the time to help Aunt with technology. It seems to be a wonderful way to help people stay connected who can no longer move about as freely. We have had telephones for oh so long but e-mail opens up so many more options – including the sharing of photos.

    • It’s not rocket science is it to make IT available and to teach people how to send emails and order groceries online. I believe every retirement complex should have this facility. Also WiFi for gradually more residents are going to be Internet users. There is a huge potential here.

      • It will come because 90% of the boomers are heavy internet users because they had to learn for employment and also for fun. It is just the current 80+ year olds who need help and just maybe the boomers will help their parents (and aunts) learn.

  3. Aunt and Linda will be true silver surfers before you know it!

    Don’t really want to think about the potential of living with dementia whilst we have a system that doesn’t recognise the value of work that carers provide.

  4. I’m sorry I didn’t embrace phone tech earlier, or digital photography / filming. To see my mum in action, or to hear her voice- I cannot imagine the ongoing power of that!

  5. How wonderful that your Aunt and Linda are taking to technology. I can almost picture them with the tablet and phone, even though I’ve never seen them. And the situation in homes is terrifying and I do worry about my future. All of us should. It seems society does not pay the people who really matter: teachers, cops, nurses …

  6. Nice visit.. 🙂 And it is great that your Aunt is open, willing and eager to learn about the tablet and smart phone. Linda is a special person and what a great help. CH’s Mom has Macular Degeneration and is hearing impaired. We first tried with our laptops and then our iPad but she says she can’t see the screen and she is not motivated at all to learn anything tech related. Her eye Dr. has just set her up for a home visit to help the sight impaired. She resisted and asked us if she was going blind. We have encouraged her to give it a try and will be there when they come if that is comfortable for her.

    • That is hard.
      Aunt has had a visit from a RNIB person who is going to arrange an assessment to see what aids she could have. A friend of hers arranged the visit. The GP didn’t suggest anything.

  7. Speech recognition software may be a good idea. One I know of is Dragon Dictate (for Mac?). Also, Skype–can you imagine a place in a home where residents could spend electronic time with their friends and family? Of course, that assumes a computer on site plus someone to help….

    Ah Isobel, it does take courage to return to the places imbued with memory… but such good healing, with companionship along the way.

    • That’s an idea. I shall have a look next time I’m with her and see if it is already installed. Thanks.
      There has to be the will to equip an aging population with the skills it needs to maintain independence, and that requires a shift in thinking, and a willingness to see the potential that older people have.

      • Also, the aged sometimes need to just *try* something new, which is not easy. My mother Skypes with her friend who moved to a different state. Skype may be easier than the complexities of email…. I Skyped with a friend many months ago, who lives only 30 miles away, and she had me holding up my artwork to the camera to see! >:-D

  8. So many feelings and moves have come up wuile visiting your Aunt … !
    Fantastic news about her not being put off by technology! Yes, a big tool for independence!
    Big hugs for you, Isobel

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