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What to do if someone you love struggles to use a computer

Modern technology can be a godsend for handling affairs speedily. But, there often comes a time when older adults struggle to use their smart phones, computers and tablets, and caregivers need to step in. What should you do if someone you love starts having difficulty using a computer?

Judy Graham reports for Kaiser Health News that millions of older adults (nearly three in four) depend on computers to pay their bills, access their bank statements, and connect with their families and friends. Blocking their use of a computer may disconnect them from things they care deeply about. More than four in ten (42 percent) of them own smartphones.

We all know how easy it is to forget a password and not be able to access online accounts. It can be particularly difficult for older adults. Problems could be related to people’s vision, coordination or cognition. When struggling to use a computer stems from loss of mental function or dementia, it’s likely time for caregivers to act.

Learn what’s confusing: Ask about what’s confusing on the computer and smart phone. And, if possible, sit down at the computer with the people you love to see what they can and cannot do.

Share passwords: It’s wise to create shared passwords so that you too have access to the programs your loved ones use. If you want to check their accounts online, make sure you have power of attorney or, at the very least, their written agreement to do so. Otherwise, it’s a federal crime!

Reduce confusion: One easy fix is to delete any apps that are confusing older adults. In fact, the fewer the apps, likely the better. Why should they struggle?

Minimize scamming: Make sure that the older adults whom you care for know not to give anyone their Social Security, Medicare or credit card information. Scams abound. Scammers are pros at pretending to be a relative or a government agency staffer in order to obtain this information.

Manage purchases: Get permission to unsubscribe your loved ones from marketing emails. If appropriate, ask to install a parental control app that can block use of online devices at certain times.

Replace a credit card with a stored value care: A stored value card limits the amount of money that can be spent. Or, reduce the credit amount on the credit card.

Notify credit bureaus not to open new accounts in the name of your loved ones.


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