Monday, October 24, 2011

What's the Secret?

I wish I knew the reason. It might be worth a book and some money if I could find out why and publish a study on it. I hope it is genetic - it would be a great trait to inherit! Of what do I speak? My dad is insanely healthy! He amazes his friends and his doctors. Dad is 90. He takes one prescription medicine a day, and we're not convinced he really needs it. He takes Galantamine., which is used to treat symptoms of Alzheimer's. Dad has been on the drug since his diagnosis. The disease hasn't progressed too terribly quickly and Dad seems to be holding steady with his memory issues. So, either the drug is working quite effectively or he doesn't have Alzheimer's. Other than that, Dad tries to remember to take an 81mg aspirin, Vitamin E and calcium daily. I put the OTC pills in a monthly dispenser box and Dad keeps the Galantamine on the dining table with a small calendar. Each day when he takes it he crosses off the day. He's usually very good at remembering to do this.... but he does forget the vitamins now and then. I'm not particularly worried!
So, if I ever discover the secret... I'll let you in on it!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Groundhog Day

Have you ever watched the movie, "Groundhog Day"? In the movie, Bill Murray plays the part of a weatherman who finds himself repeating Groundhog Day over and over again. He follows the same actions and has the same conversations. Sometimes when I am having a conversation with Dad I feel like I am caught in some sort of time warp, just like in the movie.

Today Dad called me about 'the letter'. This is a letter that his lawyer sent to his ex-wife's lawyer almost a week ago. Dad wanted to know if I had seen 'the letter':

"Yes, Dad, I've seen the letter. The lawyer sent me an email with a copy of the letter."

"But this isn't the same letter. It's missing something," Dad states as he is apparently looking at the letter.

"What is it missing, Dad?"

"There used to be a chart with some prices and I don't see that now. All I see is the letter. "

After getting on Dad's computer via screen sharing....

"OK, Dad, this is 'the letter', I say as I swirl the cursor around the letter that was already displayed on the screen.

"Yes, I see the letter. But where is the chart?"

"The chart is a separate document. If we go back to your email from the lawyer," I say, as I am showing him on his computer, "you can see the documents he sent to her lawyer. Here's the letter," I say as I circle the cursor around the .pdf file, "here's the chart." I again circle the cursor around the .pdf file for the chart.

"Oh, yes. I see. Thank you. So, the chart is a different document?"

"Yes, Dad."

"OK. I got it," states Dad.

"But, where is the letter?" asks Dad.

At this point I'm not quite sure what he means by 'where': Where is it physically? Where is it stored on his computer? Whether it has it been sent, and so forth. So after a few questions and some demonstration on the computer, I show him where the letter is filed in his documents and where the letter exists in his email. While we were doing this I clicked the buttons to have the letter printed at his home. I let Dad know that I have printed out the letter so he can have a paper copy. Dad turns to his printer, and happily exclaims, "Oh, yes. Here it is. How did you do that?! This is wonderful."

But then, Dad's voice sounds puzzled.

"But, where is the chart? I don't see the chart that was with the letter."

So we begin the cycle again.
This is very frustrating for me. I have learned to bite my tongue and refrain from saying something like, "I already told you that the chart is a different document!" I have learned to not to show my frustration or even anger in my voice as I direct him to the letter, explain that the chart is a separate document, and so forth. I want to maintain his dignity. He doesn't remember that he has already asked these questions. He doesn't seem to remember my answers. I figure that, through repetition, the important points might stick or through redirection I can focus Dad's attention on something that may have greater relevance to his life.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Computer Woes

My father studied Engineering and has always loved gadgets. So it was natural that when personal computers came along, he was one of the first to have one. My husband and I were also early adopters of technology and our children were raised on PC's.
I am not certain what it is about Engineers, but it seems they can't just let things be. They have to tinker with it, and change settings and dig down into the nuts and bolts to see what happens if.....
Computers are no different! My father would often go into something like the registry and change settings, and the computer would come to a screeching halt. Or, he'd go into Explorer and move things and then not know where to look for them. Or he'd delete items because he thought they were superfluous. As our sons became better at understanding the workings of computers than my husband and myself, they became the 'go to' guys when Grandpa did something to his computer. They became very adept at finding the solutions, but they were always very frustrated and would make themselves scarce when it came time to bail Grandpa out of his latest mess.
I think we were all somewhat relieved when my dad switched from a PC to Apple. We could honestly say that we couldn't help him because we were unfamiliar with Mac computers. But recently, that has changed. I have been getting an increasing number of phone calls about problems my father is having using his computer: about his printer not working, about a document he can't find, about having trouble using the Internet, or about an email problem. I try to talk him through each step to help him proceed, but with my inability to 'see' his screen and his difficulty understanding what I'm asking him to do, and my failure to break things down into small enough steps, and my unfamiliarity with the Mac platform, it just doesn't work. We both get extremely frustrated. I am forced to put him off for usually until the next day, before I can get up to his apartment to try to help him.
I was talking to my oldest son, who works in the computer industry, asking if he knew of some reasonably priced software that would allow me to have remote access to Dad's computer. My son let me know that Mac's have video chat and screen sharing capabilities built into them. Wow! A perfect solution. I purchased a MacBook computer and it has been worth every penny I spent on it.
Today was yet another example of the power of these applications. I received a call from Dad because he wanted to send something to a friend, but his all-in-one printer/fax/copier wasn't hooked up to fax. I began a screen sharing session with him. From the comfort of my living room I was able to access his computer. I was able to help dad scan the documents he wanted to send, open and write an email, attach the scanned documents and send them.

Earlier this week Dad called because he 'lost' his address book. Again, in a matter of minutes, I was sharing his screen and could search for the address book and place the icon back in the dock.
The iChat feature of the Mac has given us many opportunities to work together to solve problems through screen sharing and to simply chat, face to face. We have been loving it!