Computers and tablets are commonplace items in our modern world, and do expect them to come into play with your affected family member(s) sooner or later so a few thoughts:

  • They will lose over time the ability to use a device, don’t be surprised
  • If they are computer users and are early-stage, add a tablet to their toys so they can learn it now as later will be much more difficult to do, sooner or later they will migrate as PCs will no longer be in their usability reach
  • Keep things simple – unclutter the desktop of any device
  • Expect the “I need to do XYZ on my PC” discussions, there is no magic way to handle this, just patience and repetition, I need to remind my dad he’s retired on a regular basis due to his cranial trauma
  • Add fun stuff on devices, like games which they know. My mom can play solitaire and that helps her through her day, and games you can play with them if you can
  • Add family pictures to screensavers, background and such things

Managing users

Now accessing and managing these devices are a task to master, here are a few tips:

  • Give them their own devices if possible, does not need to be the latest or shiniest, as we expect some confusion in using these removing other people’s “stuff” is a good place to start. If junior installs games and messes everything up, we’re not in a better place.
  • Try to avoid passwords, they’re so annoying. Us non-dementia users find it hard to remember all these, imagine being in their shoes. Go for biometric tools (keep on reading) aka body part authentication. It’s hard to not have a face, no?
  • For shared devices:
    • Make sure each user has his/her profile. No profile sharing. Profile sharing is bad to start with, don’t turn it into a labyrinth
    • Put logout timers to make sure devices are not left unattended and usable by anybody who passed by
    • Keep an account for yourself if the device permits, with “administrator” rights, so you can fix whatever mess occurs.
    • Plan for the worst, hope for the best, this is tech!
    • Make sure user profiles are backed up somewhere like Google Drive or iCloud so should you need to reset the device or replace it, you don’t start from scratch. And yes do this for any device, period. I’ve banged my head against the wall for not doing this enough times I’ve learned my lesson.
  • How to authenticate without passwords but with “body parts”:
    • Windows 10/11: create a user account per person, with profile pictures. Microsoft has a system named “Windows Hello” which brings to the masses biometric authentication options, or in other words, you log in with your face or finger. Personally I use a Hello-capable webcam on my everyday PC, some may call it lazy but I call this “optimizing things” (ahem). Not every webcam will do, you need one which is capable of facial sensing or recognition. Cameras like the Lenovo Performance FHD and it’s siblings, the Logitech Brio, and the NexiGo HelloCam are compatible and please notice that they’re “business” webcams, not consumer ones. Most home users don’t care that much about this. Here is a “review page” which lists compatible models to help you get started.
    • MacOS: the FaceID you find on iPhone and iPads has not made it yet into MacOS but it could come. Am no MacOS expert but I found a tool named Unlox which you can use to unlock your Mac with a fingerprint, your wrist or face. Worth a look and here is the link for Unlox in the Apple Store.
    • iPhone/iPad: FaceID is the way to go but not all models are supported, here is the current list. Also you can set a 2nd “appearance” in FaceID so someone trustworthy can also unlock the device. If you can’t use FaceID, the built-in fingerprint reader might just do the trick!
    • Android: this is a bit harder as there are plenty of vendors with many models, look at the product specifications before pulling the trigger if you wish to use facial recognition.  Samsung, Lenovo and the usual suspects should have something for you. Also Android supports multiple accounts on the same device.
Security & Updates

This is a thing which must be managed or pesky hackers and viruses may pay you a visit, and this is not fun especially information theft. We’re going to look at two key things to properly set:

  1. Security updates: They key is to automatically patch if possible the system being used (Windows, MacOS) and checking regularly to see if your devices need to be updated. My suggestion is to add a calendar entry to do this every two weeks on all devices. “Unpatched security holes” are the #1 threat to a device, this is the easiest path for them to get to their objectives.Also, do not use “old” operating systems, as the manufacturer is no longer providing updates so your device will be vulnerable. For Microsoft Windows please use Windows 10 or 11 and use “Windows Update” to bring it to date (link to supported versions of Windows), for MacOS it’s version 11 (Big Sur) or above, iOS for iPads & iPhones it’s 15 but 16 is highly recommended and finally for Android it’s 11.
  2. Security software and tools: it’s not hard and many times it’s free, please use antivirus and a network firewall like a router. The router is critical as whenever you can, you don’t want to leave a PC directly onto the internet due to the previous item. Now for each operating system:
    • Windows: Microsoft’s Defender is sufficient for most users out there, and is part of Windows of 8, 10 & 11. If you wish to use something stronger, I lean towards BitDefender but everybody’s got an opinion on this
    • MacOS: statistically Macs are less likely to be hit by malware but they still are. The good news is that MacOS has that built-in as well! The bad news is that it’s not foolproof, I recommend you read this article.
    • iPhones and iPads are also not immune, read this to help you get started. They are more secure than desktop computers if are using the latest version of iOS but can still be compromised.
    • Android: like iPhones and iPads, if you’re up-to-date it’s already pretty secure but if you’re not or you sideload apps, you might want to read this.
Living in a different house

Do you need to help someone with their computer or tablet and you’re not close by? There is a great free (for personal use) tool named TeamViewer, which you can install on yours and theirs. Once that is done and running on both ends with accounts set up, you can remote control the device without being there regardless of where you are. Very cool. It works on a bunch of devices So when you get questions like “Where did Chrome go?” you can remote in and give support very quickly.

TeamViewer works on Windows, Mac, Linux, Chrome, Android & iOS. Odds are you have these in play so you can get started quickly. It’s a classic tool for support situation, perfectly safe, but follow their guidelines.

Personally, my use case is for scanning and printing. With TeamViewer I can print at my mom’s house on her printer via an old laptop I had lying around. She has no interest or capability for computers but since we’re 300 kilometers apart, printing helps a lot. That way I can give her clear instructions or information. Food for thought if this applies to you too.

For this remote scanning + printing “solution” I use an old N5110 Dell Laptop (i5 2nd Gen, 500Gb HD, WiFi, 6GB Ram, dead battery but will be plugged in outlet full time) The OS is Lubunu, which is a lighter version of Ubuntu from the world of Linux (a free open-source operating system). I did not use Windows as Win10 was too sluggish on the old laptop and I’m not the most patient person in the world. Because Ubuntu and derivatives are decent Windows replacements, the odds of finding the software I need is very high and it’s all there: the TeamViewer client and the Brother printer/scanner drivers. I use the stock PDF viewer and LibreOffice to keep things simple.

If you never dabbled with Linux distributions, this is not the time, stick to what you know to use & support your family members to avoid supporting .. yourself to support a new system. If you prefer MacOS get a second-hand or refurbished one, no need to lightspeed performance in this scenario.

Tried everything before driving 300KMs and it all works. Pfew. Now I can print things and can get her to put documents in the scanner which I remotely control as sometimes she gets mail which she cannot understand so now we can can look at stuff together.

These are my use cases, if you have some you can share please send them over!

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