The Techie Caregiver Scenario
You are in your mid-forties, a busy, still employed, computing professional. Family members need your help to maintain their independence and life styles.
Dad recently retired and is bummed out because an elbow injury limits his golf rounds. As a former executive, he’s not really comfortable with computers, keyboards, and Internet dependence (think John Mc Cain). Dad also has a hearing problem in certain frequencies in addition to his sore elbow.
Grandma is a spry octogenarian but her ten year old PC cannot keep up with book club planning, PDF newsletters, and You Tube entertainment. She is developing macular degeneration, with increasing difficulty reading books, newspapers, and the never-ending stream of forms required for transactions, such as banking and insurance.
You, by the way, are in the 5% of the population with significant color blindness that alters your perceptions of web pages and applications displayed on screens.
The Caregiver’s Problems
Besides being a dutiful child, you recognize the long run benefits to all family members of keeping Dad and Grandma independent, happy, and healthy. So, it’s time to think through the situation and do some planning.
It looks like you will have several roles:
- Tech Support for buying, setting up, and maintaining computers, networks, and phones
- Trainer on new hardware, software, and business practices
- Tour guide to show Dad and Grandma the web services, entertainment sites, information sources, and spy ware dangers.
- Advocate when an extra 0 goes into a credit card payment, a service charge shows up,, insurance change forms get lost, etc.
Groan, this could be really time consuming and cause family friction. What to do?
- Where do you learn the technology options for your family needs? Your practices don’t seem appropriate for their specific challenges?
- Where can you get support for yourself when times get frustrating? How do you develop the attitude for helping without anybody seeming burdened?
- How can you bring some professional growth for yourself? Where do you learn about so-called assistive technologies, accessibility practices, and technology trends that meld generational differences with your company’s product lines?
- Hey, there must be some business opportunities here since your family elders are typical consumers with social needs that match the national costs of health care, citizen involvement, lifelong learning, and longer active life spans.
Fast forward a few months
Ok, Dad and Grandma have new, remarkably affordable notebooks, home wireless, and a bunch of web service accounts. But there have been several surprises:
- Dad cannot adjust to the notebook keyboard, and refuses to use the typing tutor you bought.
- Grandma loves using high contrast black displays that complicate your explanations over the phone, since you see even more differently than the color blindness you’re used to.
- Dad likes his mp3 player but cannot get the hang of transferring files, sync, and storage limits.
- Grandma learned about a handheld thing called Victor Reader something that will read books to her now that she has overcome Synthetic Voice shock.
Follow up on this scenario: helping the caregiver
In a couple of months, I’ll post a list of services, tips, etc. and welcome suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thought Provoker community inspires me to try a similar challenge for computing communities. Especially with disabilities and seniors on the Obama agenda this is one way to accept responsibility and generate interest in problem solving. I am willing to nag the computing professions to overcome their thoughtlessness and ignorance of relevant technologies and practices, as I was in that attitude and knowledge state myself recently enough to remember and cringe. Also, I’ve had to deal with caregiver issues in my own family, friends, and physical circles. I would appreciate any help in bring Caregiver Assistance into the open and make pragmatic progress.