Monday, June 04, 2012


Recovery, Hearing Loss, Frustration, 
Emotionality, SNFs, Publishing

Adapting to digital technology has been and continues to be a fascinating and challenging undertaking for many people who once were on technologies cutting edge in the years before personal computers.

I've been delighted that a family member whose professional life included 1950's then state-of-the-art electronics technical activities has been able to resume some computer use.  He had been involved many years ago in the space program precursor to NASA associated with unmanned satellite tracking stations.  Many years later, following retirement, he had begun developing his computer skills once Internet access connections became available.

His beginning efforts to write his WWII recollections came to a halt when he experienced a life-threatening brain aneurysm from which he was not expected to recover -- but he did!  A  regimen of various therapies eventually ended and he returned home, but various residual effects greatly curtailed his activities.  Eventually he managed to attempt playing the computer's solitaire card game.  In his eighties, visual complications unrelated to his previous brain event, hampered his technical skill development.

Eventually, cataract surgery partially corrected some visual deficits allowing limited increased computer use with repeated trials.   A year or so ago I had urged consideration be given to his using Skype with assistance, but received no acknowledgement my suggestion had received interest from anyone.  I was delighted earlier this year to receive a Skype call from this family member.  I've had a few subsequent ones, including last night, from this family member who has actually been able to retain and sequence the steps to make the call, adjust the picture and make other minor corrections.

We sometimes use the Skype short typed messages.  Also, initially he was a bit anxious with our audio since he often required repeats due to his hearing loss which is unaided and not responsive to amplification.   Occasional repeated calls to me, plus regular frequent calls with his adult children scattered about the country have resulted in his increased confidence and significant lessening of any stress associated with needing to ask for a repeat.  By the same token, I make every effort to communicate in ways best for him.

Not only is this exciting to me on a personal level, but professionally it significantly demonstrates that the human brain can continue to recover from insults of many types, such as this aneurysm or a stroke, at any age with dedicated stimulation.  I hasten to add there can be many variables that may interfere or prevent some individuals from achieving gains, so we shouldn't be judgmental toward anyone whose skills remain static.

Therapeutic intervention after an event does provide instruction for independent practice once therapy concludes.  Consultation with a therapist long after the initial therapy can sometimes be appropriate, but it may  be challenging to obtain financial coverage.   Generally, Medicare and insurers require there must be some change in function that can be documented.  Consult your physician.

My husband had accepted digital technology when our adult children gifted him with a new clock radio, then a compact disc player which renewed his interest in listening to music, generally jazz. When video tape recorders (VCR) became prominent he was less than enthusiastic when I gave him one, so I ultimately figured out how to install the connections to our older TV.

With the installation completed and video tape movies I played a few times, he gradually became interested to the degree he not only used the VCR himself, but acquired knowledge of operational fine points I hadn't learned. Privately amusing to me, was that he would then become impatient if I failed to use the VCR remote special features as efficiently as he had become. We went through this same process when I gave him  a DVD player another year.

When our son and wife presented us with one of their desktop personal computers after buying a new laptop, we were quite confident that it was only a matter of time before our man would become adept and enthusiastic using this latest digital technology. Maybe this would help distract him from the constant wearing pain he was experiencing that no longer responded to epidural treatments as he tried also to avoid excessive pain medications and sleeping pills.  Unfortunately, he wasn't a candidate for surgery.

At the local office supply store, after choosing a small compact desk, my son and I carefully selected a desk chair that we thought would be most comfortable sitting for my husband, since he was experiencing increasing back pain and other medical problems. When we brought the firm but cushy chair home he did try sitting at the computer, but disappointingly, given our efforts, he was unable to comfortably sit for long. Additionally, he experienced visual difficulty focusing between the keyboard and the screen with his bifocal eyeglasses. I'm sure his constant wearing pain short-circuited his concentration and patience for acquiring new skills, too.

During those early weeks of my computer use, my own limited internet surfing had revealed specific sports and jazz music sites that I thought would garner his interest. I also realized, my goal now had to be not only learning to use the computer myself, so I could help get him started, but that he would need one of those laptops coming onto the market. Wireless capability for home use was beginning to be touted as a possibility, so I concluded this was a system combination we needed.

My plan was that my husband could use a laptop in the relative comfort of his recliner. Meanwhile, to aid in my overcoming computer operation complications our son consulted remotely with me as he was able from his Midwest home, as did my daughter from the East Coast, between the hours of my part time work and other activities here on the West Coast. Also, I benefited from consultations with bloggers who generously shared their knowledge, time, encouragement and emotional support.

For numerous years I had become personally aware of how the wear and tear of constant pain, whether mild or strong, on a person's psyche can effect their attitude toward life and influence their behavior toward others, especially loved ones. Even the individual's thinking can be altered, making their concentration a tiring effort. Frustration, anger toward themselves could manifest itself by being directed toward their most trusted other.   

I thought once a select few Internet sites were set up and easily accessible they might serve to draw my husband's attention to enjoyable features outside the pressing discomfort, thus distracting his focus from himself. But before wireless readily became available, or I had a laptop, he went to bed one night and didn't awaken in the morning as I've shared here before in "Time To Talk."

I think of the how the smart phones and tablets available today are even more portable.  These devices provide Internet access benefiting individuals of all ages and most capabilities.  Anyone interested in developing computer operating skills can likely obtain assistance from a variety of sources.  I continue to be amazed at the rapid evolution of new products that have emerged in these six years, leaving me to wonder what's next?

The computer tablet has already become an effective teaching tool attracting some autistic children to express themselves, even stimulating their speech.   Elders have easily learned to use a tablet's touch screen as their first computer. I may even be able to use a tablet with some of the individuals for whom I provide speech, language and cognitive services.

I'm familiar with a retirement community that recently installed wireless service throughout the campus, including in their skilled nursing health center (SNF.)    People sometimes do not realize some SNFs may have very mentally competent residents, some of whom may be able to go about on motorized scooters and leave the facility on outings with friends and family.  Residents and people from the community come to the SNF for rehabilitation following some decline in function, generally due to medical changes ranging from dehydration to recovery from surgery and strokes to name a few issues.  Some people will recover enough to return to their previous residences or other living environments. Some individuals requiring more nursing care may remain permanently.

I've encountered a few SNF residents using their own personal computers.  I recall a former Chicago radio broadcaster who actively used her computer to maintain contact with her network television newsman son in his travels.   Well into her nineties with mental faculties intact she once expressed concern about whether or not at her age she should still be reading so many newspapers, magazines and other publications about current local and world events.  The answer was, of course, "yes!" since she derived so much pleasure from an activity that was such an important part of her life.

Then there was another SNF resident I often noticed up in a chair typing at her computer.   She was engaged in writing a book she self-published that I wrote about several years ago:"Salute To Janis David Cooley."

I continue to anticipate much promise for increased activities, pleasure and enjoyment for a select number of  skilled nursing facility residents, whether short term or permanent, with wireless connections, tablet computers and, for some, perhaps even a smart phone.  I'd best be purchasing these latest digital items myself so I can be prepared, but perhaps there will be some new digital device replacing those before my purchase.  Stay tuned.


  1. Your blog is very interesting. Yes, with a little help older people can become very adapt at using computer and other electronic devices. I will be 90 in November.

    In 1999 my husband was recovering from brain surgery and had become quite depressed. I bought Web TV and he soon learned to use it and e-mail his sons and friends. He was able to use it up until a few months before he passed away. In the past 5 years I have had a lap top and with a little help from my son (if I do have a problem) I have been fortunate to be able to not only communicate with friends but have learned to store documents, arrange photo books, etc. Without the computer I would be completely lost. Any spare time I am on it reading articles, looking up words and of course keeping in touch with friends and family.

    I am seriously thinking of purchasing a Tablet...and I'm sure with a little practice I will be able to do even more things.

    I'm just hoping that more older people do become able to enjoy this electronic age.

    1. Thanks for your comment. Your experience confirms my belief about the benefits of computer use for individuals encountering the challenges sometimes associated with the effects of some medical issues.

  2. My 82-year old husband uses a lap top almost every day. He learned how to use it after I started blogging. I think these modern electronic gizmos are wonderful. David repaired radios for a living way back when, and now is digitally wired. Seems to work well for him. We have yet to try Skype.

    I noticed most of the retirement facilites around here have Internet arrangements. It is becoming a must, I think.

    Good post, Dianne

    1. I think my husband would have really enjoyed using the computer, too. Glad your husband does. A radio business would have been quite important in that heyday. I recall my uncle had a "radio room" in his house where he liked to tinker fixing the technical equipment of the day when I was quite young.

      Am glad to hear retirement facilities where you live have Internet arrangements. Expect others everywhere that don't provide these connections will be doing so, and especially simplifying their offerings with wireless. No doubt some facilities in areas outside our city don't yet offer wireless.

      Internet capability has been available at the local retirement facilities, but usually special access had to be ordered by a SNF's room's occupant(s.) Residents in independent living, other levels had the Internet much more accessible. Last year our city arranged for Verizon to provide residential Broadband. Now the entire retirement community, including the SNF, has been given wireless service, too. Wireless will allow me to easily connect in any person's room as I can do at locations like our local Starbucks, or library.

  3. My 95-year old mother-in-law was using her computer daily up until about three years ago when her eyesight got very bad and she really had problems seeing the keys and typing properly. She absoluely hated giving it up, and I honestly think it kept her alert and in touch with all that was going on around her. She truly misses it and the communication she had with all of her family through it. The modern technology that has engulfed our lives continues to astonish me; but I myself can embrace just so much of it before I feel like my brain is fried. ~Joy

    1. Joy, I think speech synthesizers offer so much promise as their quality increases. I think of how they could technically evolve for those with visual and/or motor deficits. Individuals with such limitations could merely speak to a computer and the computer could talk back, answering a search question, or reading to the listener a list of the various sites from which they could choose. There may well be such models already, but not available for the masses at an affordable price that I've heard of.

      For your MIL what she, and others would need are simplified computer controls for touch. Then the computer would require the ability to allow her to speak her email message and have responses converted to speech to which she could listen. Shall we start a business?

      Those are my ideas, now you find us some engineers/tech designers. I think the rub is affordable price and quantity since demand is often the problem for the creation and manufacturing of items for people with special needs.

  4. How fascinating. You really go into this in detail.
    At age 72, I love my gizmos, which include a desktop computer, a netbook, a Kindle reader, a Kindle Fire, an I-Pod Nano, a digital camera and a regular type cell phone. Oh and also transmitter earphones, which have gone a long way toward restoring my pleaure in watching films. I use these electronics mostly for my pleasure, for writing and photo projects, to stay in touch with family and friends and to be informed about politics. My husband depends on his electronics for our livelihood. We can live in Hawaii and he can earn money with his consulting and patent claim work, only having to hop a plane now and then to meet clients. And of course sometimes they like to come and visit us!
    Your thoughts on the uses of these gadgets for people disabled by age are very worthwhile. I think it is wonderful that you have the time and patience to help others learn to lead richer lives with computers, etc.

    1. Hattie, I have a desktop, laptop, netbook, digital camera (I should use more frequently for photos to blog,) cell phone, land line, 3 portable phones, older antenna TV with converter box(by choice, preferred over cable/satellite 'cause such a large choice of programming here.) I still keep CDs, LPs, 78s, VCRs, DVDs and players. I think I need to downsize. Oh yes, did I mention my battery operated pencil sharpener? Does that count???

      Transmitter earphones are a real benefit for so many people. They would have been on the agenda to provide my husband had he lived, as the TV sound volume he required was excessive. The retirement community I mentioned now has individual TVs with earphones so those in the SNF setting who share a room (never more than 2 people in a room, some with a room alone)no longer annoy their roommates with blaring sound.

      Sounds like we need to consult your husband for the "business"(?) ideas I described to Joy in the comment above posted after your comment. FWIW my niece has worked for over thirty years with a mainland tech company and is able to work from other locations, too. This has allowed her to enjoy various areas, including the Big Island. Sounds like a good way to work and live.

    2. Oh, it's fabulous. And I have got to put in a plug for the Kindle Fire vs. the I-Pad. The Fire is so handy I'm going to get rid of the netbook and just take the Fire when I travel. The I-pad is klutzy and doesn't play Flash, which is a big drawback, I think. I believe Amazon is coming out soon with a device intermediate in size between the I-Pad and the Kindle, which might be very nice for some people.
      Oh, I should mention that I am nearsighted, so devices like the Fire work for me. Farsighted people might need a larger device.

  5. It's gratifying to learn how many fully mature adults, thought to be backward in technology matters by some youngsters, are using and benefiting from all the new gadgets. I like your ideas for innovations. Hope they can be developed into even more useful hardware and software.

  6. Wow. As usual, you're on top of all the digital stuff available. You're a great role model in so many ways, and now that includes acceptance and mastery of the new technology. I fully support senior residences having free wireless all over. When I think of my brilliant friend Lida stuck in her otherwise wonderful assisted living place (one of the best locally) without internet access, I get MAD. Personally, I have resisted the enticements of the various i-gadgets simply because I decided I didn't need all that jazz. My blackberry is wonderful, but it's too tiny to do much online. I'm learning about e-publishing because I'm helping a friend edit his own books. and I do have the free amazon kindle app on my laptop so I can get and read e-books from amazon. Not sure whether this will acknowledge nook and the rest. (Note to self: check it out!) I am too in love with print books to ever want to haul one of those little cement-colored gadgets with me on the bus/metro. But that's me. Thanks be I'm not responsible for others as you are.

    1. I have some idea of what's out there, but am far from being all that knowledgeable about it all. I've just discovered some of what I was suggesting could be possible for others needing augmentative assistance may actually be available.
      I'd welcome coming to my area a continuing education class (we're required to have so many units for regular licensing and certification)on the topic, but haven't been any scheduled. Frankly, I can't keep up with all of it.

      Colleague really likes his Blackberry and isn't considering changing presently. I think all retirement living locations, including those offering only one level of care, i.e. SNF, Asst. Living, will have to offer wireless sooner or later if they want to attract new residents.

      I don't have an ebook yet, either, but may someday. Yes, I like actual books, too.

  7. actually working on producing e-books has changed my view almost 180 degrees. i no longer think the e-book will mean the END of beautiful print books. rather, I think they will mean an EXPLOSION of titles! we can publish books without having to pass them through the sniffy (white male, mostly) gatekeepers at the big publishing houses. i mean, GURLS can publish their own books and market them, and all that wonderful rebellious, joyous action!! i just saw something that said Philip Roth (?) was the great american novelist of this time. huh? and oh, please.