Nearly three-quarters of American adults 65 and older use the internet in 2019 compared to 43% in 2010, according to the Pew Research Center. Researchers also found that 42% of older Americans owned smartphones in 2017, an 18% increase from four years earlier.

This increasing reliance on technology has some families concerned, especially those with older relatives, who have cognitive impairments, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

Medical professionals adapt to new digital reality

Physicians who treat cognitive disorders consider challenges for patients who use computers or smartphones. Many discuss problems with technology as a way to broach what can be sensitive topics, such as difficulties with memory and clear thinking.

At Johns Hopkins Medicine, doctors ask patients if they are having trouble remembering their passwords or getting locked out of accounts. Some patients describe what are actually memory problems as having trouble with their phones or programs.

Digital safety concerns rise for older adults

When cognitive issues arise, people become more vulnerable to scammers over the phone or through emails. Family members should first try to remind their loved ones never to give out their Social Security or credit card information. They should also create shared passwords to monitor their computer use but be careful of using passwords that also give access to a person’s bank or brokerage accounts. Other steps you can take include:

  • Unsubscribing from accounts that send emails
  • Removing unfamiliar friends from their Facebook account
  • Limiting access to smartphone use via the parental control app
  • Using a “stored value” credit card containing a specific amount of money

Elder law planning provides protection

While the safest solution to the problem may be to remove computers and smartphones from those with cognitive issues, many families are reluctant because they want to respect their loved one’s independence and dignity. An experienced elder law attorney here in Colorado can help you find a comprehensive plan that protects assets, plans for health care needs and addresses your concerns and goals.