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(I selected "Alzheimer's & Dementia," but he's only been diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment thus far.)


This is NOT as serious as most of the issues I see, but ...


... anyway, my FIL is 92. His computer is his lifeline.


At one time, he was *our* Tech Guru, but that ship's long sailed bye-bye. Now he runs into trouble literally *every* time he boots up. Not. An. Exaggeration.


His current "tech village" is mostly local sister in law and remote sister in law (who works on his computer remotely), along with Remote SIL's tech-savvy friend ... and, of course, me. Local SIL is really not into computers, but she's really stepped up a lot with the routine issues.


As for my husband, his own abilities are slightly limited due to stroke, and majorly limited by a lack of self-confidence. Also working on that.


FIL is trying to write his memoirs and keep up with his genealogical research. He does write well ... when he doesn't mess up the tech. He also does email ... although he needs help every time he wants to open or send an attachment.


We can no longer work with him via email, or over the phone (unless remotely controlling his computer for him), and he often can't follow instructions even when we stand over his shoulder.


We've tried tablets, but he's old-school. Windows on a desktop PC, only. Learning curve's too high, and motor skills not present, for anything "simpler," like a touch-screen.


Unfortunately, he also clicks on every email that comes through. I just brought his PC back from a professional malware cleaning, and it's infected again ... despite all of the good apps he's got on board (plus Remote SIL's vigilance.)


He's (mostly) a sweet guy. He NEEDS a life of purpose. We all wholeheartedly support that. But ... the "village" workload steadily increases. This week has strained all of us.


At least he isn't driving anymore. But that does make his computer issues vastly more essential for his quality of life. (Of course, we all have lives, too ....)


So. Have any of you ever run into this sort of thing with an elder's "hobby?" (It's more than a hobby.)

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This is exactly what happened to my dad. It’s not sustainable, but eventually we just took the computer and told him I t was broken and we can get it fixed. And it never came back. We didn’t tell him it was not fixable because then he would want to get a new one and of course he could not learn a new software or system. We just kept telling him that they were working on it Good luck. It’s a sad time.
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Confounded Apr 22, 2019
It's amazing how such a trivial issue can become logistically overwhelming.

Biggest fly in the ointment is that it's a shared computer. My MIL avoids dealing with all of FIL's tech issues, and really has little interest in tech, period. But she does use the PC for a couple of online volunteer projects, and they have a shared email account (although she rarely uses it).

She has zero interest in getting her own machine and account.

When it comes time to confiscate, we're gonna be a bit stuck. Luckily, we're not there yet.
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My dad was very computer savvy. During his cognitive decline he experienced quite a bit of frustration and my sisters and I frequently struggled for solutions.

First off, add Digital Access Rights to your elder’s POA. This will allow you to manage online accounts, monitor internet use, change content that’s been posted, reset passwords, etc.

Dad, who never had a password that wasn’t at least 16 randomly generated characters, lost all sense of online privacy, personal and financial. He also became so suggestible that he was compelled to fill in every form that popped up on his screen. Delete all sensitive information and check what’s stored in the cloud.

For computer usability: SIMPLIFY.

You might try going back to older versions of the programs that he uses most. A current desktop publishing program is a nightmare of option menus and things to screw up. Maybe he’s got a retired computer in the closet that could run a bare bones word processor?

I totally understand your complaint about joining every email list. I checked dad’s email every morning to delete the junk (empty the trash after you do this, or you’ll catch hell for being nosy) and to unsubscribe him from any new lists. Make it easy to find the email from the grandkids and news from old friends.

Since my dad was an iPad devotee, his tendency to download free apps made his home screens impossible to navigate. Delete the garbage and purchase ad free versions of the most frequently used. There are parental control settings that allow you to review and approve any new app downloads.

Ideally, put all the apps on one screen. Chose ONE weather, dictionary, puzzle, bird guide, newspaper, map, etc. Multiples of similar apps create confusion and frustration.

My dad had an engineer’s need for organization and a passion for subfolders. Consequently, the more important something was, the more thoroughly he hid it from himself. If you lack the guts to tackle this sort of mess, create a few new folders with obvious names, and put them on the desktop. Also, learn how to search within your own device.

As far as internet browsing, there are content limiting programs available, though they’re all geared for children and teens. An elder focused net nanny would be useful.

When his Lewy body delusions kicked in, Dad went through a period of sending wildly inappropriate emails to strangers. Then he got really sneaky about it. Picture him sitting in the darkened bathroom with his iPad at 4 am, sending requests to “help” links or proposing marriage to strangers, enticing them with his net worth, and including his address so his prospective bride could pick him up.

The only reliable solution we found to that was changing the WiFi password and erasing it after any -supervised- connection. Or, just shut off the internet when rest of the household doesn’t need it. Call it a therapeutic lie, but there’s nothing to be gained by arguing. And complaining about faulty tech is part of the joy of computers.

Computers and internet access were integral to dad’s identity. He carried his iPad everywhere for years. He got agitated if it was lost, and wouldn’t go to bed unless it was on the nightstand. During his “I’m leaving” phase, the charger and cable were the first things he’d pack, and the things he most often accused me of stealing. (Buy extras, they’re cheap.)

Through much of his decline, it was great to see him light up when he found something interesting to share. Dad could always contribute something: cheap gas, the PBS schedule, or the weather for the grandkids’ game.

It was heartbreaking when he’d ask me to help correct his incomprehensible emails to imaginary recipients, and I felt terrible after disabling the dictation and voice commands. For all the computer trials of the past few years, we didn’t send his iPad with him to the memory care facility. He hasn’t asked for it, and they have free WiFi.
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Confounded Apr 22, 2019
Wow. You've REALLY been through it ...
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So ... a few things I plan to try after Easter visits are over:

-- Talk to FIL's "kids," and ask their thoughts about switching to dictation/voice rather than typing. I can record him, and/or we can maybe hire a teen to type for him. As for adding Dragon or any other new software ... I don't think that'll work unless someone's with him every time he wants to use it ('cause he'll definitely want to tinker with it, if it's there).

-- Also, talk to them about email "pre-screening."

-- With his permission (should not be a problem), I can connect to his PC via TeamViewer or some-such. While I value in-person calls, some flexibility would be good.

-- Install "ad-free" add-ons to Chrome and Firefox. Less stuff to click on.

Many thanks, all!
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Llamalover47 Apr 23, 2019
Confounded: Okay, but dictating the words into any new device is going to let "auto correct" take over and sometimes the words are not conveyed correctly, e.g. I know one lady (not so lucid) who uses the talk to text command, but she is not making the correction when a word is spelled incorrectly or she doesn't speak "comma, period, et al," which makes it more of a mumbo jumbo/greek that the recipient cannot understand.
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Ideally, hire a teen for a nominal fee as an after-school event for the teen to help him.
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Can you find a caring teen or young adult who you can hire to work with your father now, when he is on his computer? In addition to the help, it is a chance to build an additional relationship.
Of course it would be ideal if a grandchild just happened to live nearby, be available and willing, but in lieu of that, there are many high school seniors and college freshmen who would be ideal Yes, they have to have the sensitivity to be able to deal with a senior at his level of cognitive decline and I believe they are out there.
The schedule would be up to you, your FIL and the student, of course. Maybe an hour or two, twice a week?
I love the idea of him being able to work on his memoir with a young "ghost typist".
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We use Linux, and our email program is separate from our net program so we can disable emails. Your tech savvy mates can probably do the same thing in Windows. You could say that something has gone wrong with emails, and use all the tricks about how long it is taking to fix it. Without emails, you shouldn't have the malware problem, certainly not to the same extent. If writing his autobiography is his main interest, perhaps you could even disable the internet. It might be worth considering. If you try it and it doesn't work, you can always 'fix it'.
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Confounded Apr 22, 2019
He still has legit uses for email and web browsing. Also, he's still got it too much together for delaying tactics to work for more than a day or two (which is a Good Thing ...).
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Make written instructions for the basic things and post them where they are needed. I kept a step-by-step list of directions by the keurig and the microwave for mom. As far as the memoir or writing is concerned, you can buy Dragon voice recognition software where he speaks/narrates into a microphone and it transcribes into the written word.
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Rabanette Apr 21, 2019
His cognitive decline may prevent him from being able to follow those directions at this point, leading to more frustration for everyone.
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Your situation is similar to mine, Confounded. My husband was diagnosed with MCI almost two years ago, but it seems to have progressed since then. He's only 67, which makes it all the more sad that his brilliant mind is getting hollowed out by this disease at such a relatively young age. He used to read a lot, but now spends much of his time on the computer. He's never been good with technology but requires help now with many basic functions. After several malware intrusions, his son wiped the hard drive and had Linux installed on it. We got him a new email account, etc. The worst part is that he likes to check his investment account daily and has been getting locked out multiple times a week, either because he's transposed the user name and password, or he doesn't enter the PW correctly. I'm trying to get him to roll the assets over to my financial advisors, who could keep an eye out and flag anything suspicious. I don't trust his judgment anymore. But he's reluctant to give up control because it's his hobby and he thinks he's good at it.
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You're lucky he is happy with his computer. And there are programs to prevent his clicking everywhere - they're generally called "child-proofing" - start googling for programs to prevent children from going to the wrong sites.

No matter how good SIL is - she cannot catch everything, that's why I use Avast4Free but there are plenty of programs out there that catch suspicious websites. And don't give him a charge card.

I just googled Child Proof Software and plenty of programs came up:
https://www.google.com/search?client=firefox-b-1-d&q=child+proof+software+for+computers
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As for the frequent infections....There are programs that wipe everything new on a computer at shutdown, but then you'd have to figure out how to keep the documents he wants saved....perhaps setting word processing docs to save to cloud? I managed public computers used by many people who "opened everything" and thats how I kept my sanity. I'm sorry it's been a while so i couldn't recommend a recent app.
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I Urge you to get a large tablet because maybe the tablet you got was too small. The advantage of the tablet is that my 96 yr. old father can still read 2 books a week, watch videos, use Internet. He wrote his autobiography And my sister had a printed into a book. Go online and show him what you can do once he writes the book so his legacy will live on...No one last change but hes going to have to and I went through this with my dad. I would make a deal that if he would give it a week, I'd make a favorite meal or something he wanted. I bought dad a posture cane because he was all hunched over And I'm afraid hes going to fall. I used the incentive, And he loved he could get around more and that he wasn't as hunched over. Same thing with supplements like electrolytes so he doesn't get cramps, Arthritis support, etc. It's a losing battle for you but hes getting lots of attention like a misbehaving child. My mother didn't want a scooter but once she got it, the mobility gave her so much freedom. She and dad resisted having home health care assistance but then came to love the people And their visits. I hope this advice helps. Come up with good incentives. Maybe dad would like to go for a drive or go to church or to an event or visit a friend Or family member.
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I'm intrigued to hear your dad wants to write his memoirs. What a gift! If this is something he enjoys, would it be possible to find someone who could volunteer to help him with this? Perhaps he would just need help with actually opening the programs and all, but maybe he could dictate his stories to someone? My dad would have loved to have someone to tell his stories to.
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What a wonderful problem to have. My mom was quite computer savvy but lost those skills early on.

I wonder if there is a package for email, or settings can be adjusted, out there that instead of using icons for tasks uses words? For example, maybe it is Windows 10, that changed the word "attach" to a picture of a paper clip? I will admit it threw me off initially and was hard to get used to.
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Confounded Apr 22, 2019
His PC is Windows 7 (not gonna upgrade). He started with DOS, and was our Tech Guru until Windows 64-bit versions came along. At first, he was asking the same questions we were. Then he needed more help from *us*. Now he needs help with most functions. It's been a long, slow decline.

Being Old School, he (ever-so-slightly) understands words better than icons. At present.
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I can relate, being 82 and on the laptop much of the day......I do not catch on to the tech stuff, so I just bypass certain things that baffle me..

Cuppla ideas: If he can walk, perhaps a daily or twice daily stroll would help..
"move a muscle, change a thought."

I also use easy crossword puzzle books....Still another fun thing is to buy coloring books with really nice scenes on them. I probably have 35 different colored pencils for this activity.

Watch more tv..I really enjoy the mystery shows and detective shows and hot rod/custom car programs and of course the auto auctions..

Grace + Peace,

Bob.
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I'm glad you brought this up, as I feel the same way about my computer and Facebook page. I almost never see my family although they live in same city, just busy with their own families and jobs. I have had problems with hacking, one of which was really stupid, but I hope I am more alert now. Avoid Supremo!
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Can you shift his hobby a way from the computer tech stuff. It might take some work to find personal hobbies, but they're out there. Some don't take much mobility. I'm younger and there was a time when I did a lot of communication on the different Amtrak websites, because of my love of trains. It was real simple and I'm sure there are so many other areas, like love of old air planes, or classical music, etc.. A lot of times you can just communicate on line and you develop "online buddies" etc. But there are so many fields of interest. Out there, I encourage him to explore it. Maybe he can create an online group that loves music from the 50's and Big Band music. Just ideas.
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Is he able to follow written instructions? For my mother, who has not been diagnosed with any form of dementia but is generally not tech savvy. I made a document on her desktop with detailed instructions as well as pictures to help her through her computer tasks. Such as, adding pictures to email or printing pictures. I, also, made myself an administrator account and her account as a user account. That way it can stop some of the crap from being installed. (It was really to stop my sisters from adding crap malware on my mom's computer.) Finally, I have remote access if there's anything that I need to do that way. Between all of that, it's pretty rare for me to have to help her now. You may have already done all of this. If not, I hope this helps.
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My 90-y/o widower father was practically married to his computer. He was on the computer every waking second. He too opened every email he received, so his computer got infected with malware over and over. Norton antivirus could not keep up with him. His favorite pastime was forwarding racial and sexual jokes. He did not have dementia but his sense of humor was waay out there. The only time i had respite from his email was when it was in store for repairs. Now that he is gone, I miss his emails terribly.

Anyway, for your FIL, I do not think I can offer any sage advice to you because you have done everything to help him. Patience is the only thing there is left for you to rely on. It is frustrating but it could be worse! At least he does not have dementia, is incontinent, and plays with his poop.
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Mayday ... I never knew it could require an interstate "village" to operate one computer!

Other "fun" stuff occurs as well, but we're all trying to cooperate ... and in that sense, we're EXTREMELY LUCKY!
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LOL MAYDAY. You said it. And hang in there Confounded. Only gets more interesting from here.
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Sometimes it takes a village to raise a senior.
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summing it up;

UTIs can really make people crazy.
SENIOR activities
Kids that are tech savvy, you may find kids in library who need the voluntary hours for high school they are screened and they like to do these things. check with local library or high schools for these programs.
Adult day care, or drivers to take FIL to library.
Tape recorder.
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OP here ... and ... wow! I didn't expect *any* answers, let alone such excellent ones. Thank you!

FIL's decline, in computer skills and in other areas, has been progressing for years. Nowadays, his hygiene is great, his personality's almost unchanged, but his judgment and memory are wobbly. With tech, in particular, he seems to have simply reached a level where help is truly difficult to provide. (MIL can, and does, use tech wisely when she wants to - but - equally wisely, she steers clear of all of FIL's tech issues. She *does* appreciate what *we* do.)

I also believe the problem is coming to a head because they're on a waiting list for an IL/AL, so we're trying to help him through this by coming over more often, and helping with "sorting" that doesn't really need to happen right away. But FIL's tech issues tend to dominate every call or visit. (When the move finally happens, the change should help some with providing more activity for both of them.)

Protection apps catch most malware/viruses, but not necessarily all of them, and sometimes the cleanup is incomplete or doesn't happen at all. Email protection apps tend to be wonky ... so I kinda like the idea of somebody checking in (remotely) in the morning.

For now, they live in their own home, about 15 minutes away from us. I've been going over there in person every time it's "my turn." My Evil Plan for those visits is to check in on them near-randomly. Computer health is secondary. That said ... I may get into TeamViewer or something, and start doing a *few* things remotely. Like email inspection.

As one of his "villagers," I get to see a good sampling of his documents and emails. His content still makes sense. More typos now, and the emails ramble more, but I've seen far worse from some folks who are less challenged. Formatting, however, is often wonky. Files get misplaced. Strange things happen to files an app needs to function - and it isn't always due to malware. Dealing with email attachments is now beyond him.

As for *Mild* Cognitive Impairment? Nope, I don't buy it, but the family does, and that's what the HMO diagnosed in January. They also gave us lots of literature, and all of it was about Alzheimer's/dementia. So ... ?
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CarinDaughter Apr 21, 2019
Sounds like your FIL and my Dad are in the same boat. Not officially diagnosed with dementia or alzheimers, but having difficulty with their beloved technology. My Dad used to be a programmer and probably 60% of his day is spent on a computer. My brother setup a PiHole along with Cylance and they do a really good job at blocking access to compromised sites, but allows him access to the sites he loves and are safe. (my brother set it up so that the message my Dad receives says "site unable to be reached"). Also, both my brother and I have access to his email and delete "suspect" emails immediately from our phones - usually before my Dad sees them. While his computer was "at the shop" my sister in law painstakingly unsubscribed him from all non-essential emails, if they aren't coming in, he can't get too distracted. Also, his favorite game is solitaire and as he his memory slowly diminishes, all he remembers to do is access Solitaire and loves "beating his previous score". When the computer "doesn't work", I tell him my brother is going to look into it and have a backup laptop that doesn't have internet, but does have solitaire. Perhaps your FIL might gravitate to a certain non-internet-connected activity and still feel like he is "working on his computer". :) My Dad spends more time on the backup laptop now as I have it setup next to his comfy chair.
Note: this did take time and gradual adjustment. Took probably 2 years, but it is working well and he is less frustrated.
Hope this helps a little! Best of luck to you and your family!
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As far as his memoir goes can he record the stories and history he wants to relay? Having a voice recording might even be better than written.
Is there a neighborhood teen that could come in and help him? This could be in the guise as FIL is "helping" the kid. Together they could write the stories. Or the neighborhood kid could say he is doing this for a school history project.
Have you thought about Adult Day Care for him and maybe even Mom? It would give them some socialization.
If Dad or Mom is a Veteran you might get some help (home health aid) for a few hours a few times a week..(Not sure how many hours per year the limit is but it would be worth checking out.)
If there is a local Senior Center near by maybe someone there can help him a few times a week with the computer.
And I have to ask...are both Mom and Dad living alone at home? It sounds like Dad's MCI is a bit more than mild and Mom may need more help (and if she also is having a decline they both will need more help sooner than later.)
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Can someone screen his email daily, before he gets up in the am? Perhaps you can all rotate this on a weekly basis?
Sorry, this doesn't sound like an easy thing to deal with :-(
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If he's been managing fine and suddenly isn't, I'd get him checked out for that reason alone. Could something has gone "ping" (in him, I mean, not in the computer).

And I agree - meanwhile take his computer offline. Is anyone else in the house using internet connection?

Next time you're physically there, can you have a look at the genealogical research he's been doing recently? If he's been plugging away at it but on closer examination it's all nonsense that might be another sign of a step down in his mental functioning - hope not, but I would think about it.
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Is it possible to set up his email so that only authorized addresses get through?

We use a malware that does have an annual fee, but when it pops up and says that it blocked a viscous site, woowee it is worth the 30 bucks. We also don't get unknown emails, they get quarantined and we have to actually retrieve them. You can hide the folder so he can't accidentally open anything.

I think his behavior warrants a UTI test and a new assessment, this behavior is beyond mild.
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So hard. My Mom was an avid reader from the time she was 5. TV was secondary. Only watched the shows she really liked. Dementia made it impossible to read. TV she lost the ability to follow the story line. I placed her in an AL. She at least had a common area she could talk with others. It was one floor so she walked around inside the building. Stopping to rest in the chairs they had every so often.

Just read up on FILs problem and he may be past mild. It says he should be able to carry on with his every day activities. Just had a thought, can his computer be set up to talk to text. He would talk and the program would type out what he says. His spam protector should catch most of the bad emails. Do you have a Malware protector on his compter? If so, funny its not catching them. Maybe someone can check his email and delete unimportant ones before he sees them.

www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/mild-cognitive-impairment/symptoms-causes/syc-20354578
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To change things up for him, what about a Senior Day Program,  maybe one for ALZ/Dementia clients a couple of days a week? Be sure they have a variety of clients with different levels so he would have someone to visit with and a wide variety of activities.  My mom attends one daily and it's been a blessing. 

On the computer, can you remove everything but Word?   Maybe take it to a shop and have them do it.
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