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Ain’t Technology Grand?


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​By Elizabeth Shean

Mom loves technology, even though she doesn’t understand it. She will tell anyone that Netflix is the bee’s knees, despite the fact she lacks the technical knowledge to access it on her own. The fact she has to rely on me to find her favorite shows and turn them on doesn’t diminish her enjoyment of the on-demand television service.

She’s also fascinated with my smartphone’s capabilities. Mom never had or used a cell phone in her life, let alone a telephone with internet access. She marvels at the wealth of knowledge contained within such a tiny device. Despite the dementia, Mom remains a very curious person. The fact I have an encyclopedia in my pocket that guarantees instant answers for any question under the sun delights Mom to no end.

In fact, the smartphone’s capabilities tickle her so much that we have developed a little game. She will look at me and nod toward my phone while saying, “Look this up....” I will laugh and comply. Whether she needs to know if the Duchess of Cambridge is pregnant again or what the distance is from the moon to Saturn, I can satisfy her curiosity within seconds.

Beyond the entertainment value, I think technology like the smartphone is a boon for caregivers. It gives me peace-of-mind to know I have instant access to all of Mom’s medical information, just by clicking through to her doctor’s patient portal. I also use the “Daily Companion” app to look up effective solutions to some of Mom’s dementia behaviors, like the paranoia that occurs once in a while. I also can access both of our bank accounts just by clicking a tiny icon.

You’d think with that much sensitive information on my smartphone that I would have set it to lock down when it goes idle, right? Well... not exactly. I did not want to turn on the security setting to enter a pin code every time I pick up my phone. Plus, I’ve never lost it. So why bother to lock it?

But then…

A few days ago, as Mom and I got back into the car after enjoying lunch at a neighborhood restaurant (pancakes!), I turned the key in the ignition and began to back out of the parking space. Mom tilted her head toward the cell phone mount on my dash and started to say, “Hey, look this up...” before stopping mid-sentence.

My cell phone was not in the dash mount. I felt my jeans pocket, where it normally resides. No phone.

Somewhat panicked, I put the car back into ‘park,’ threw off my seatbelt and bolted back into the restaurant.

Fortunately, the hostess saw me coming through the door and greeted me with a big smile. She was holding my phone aloft.

“Forget something?” she teased. “We figured you’d be back.”

I didn’t realize I’d been holding my breath until I exhaled forcefully. After reclaiming my device, I remembered a statistic I’d read recently at the Protect Seniors Online website: Half of seniors do not lock at least one of the devices they use.

I don’t consider myself a “senior” yet (despite what AARP thinks), but that statistic applied to me. Since I don’t lock my phone, the restaurant hostess—or anyone else—could have touched my phone’s screen and started going through my apps, looking for identity information to steal.

Lesson learned. As soon as I got back into the car, I took a moment to change my phone’s security settings. Turns out clicking through a four-digit code to wake the phone up isn’t as much of a hassle as I’d feared. Certainly not as much of a hassle as having my (or Mom’s) identity stolen.

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