Practical Suggestions to Help Loved Ones Age in Place Safely
Practical Suggestions to Help Loved Ones Age in Place Safely

I Can Zoom With Grandma, and She Doesn’t Have to do Anything!

Have you done it yet? Video chatted with your elderly parent or grandparent? If you have, I certainly congratulate you for spending the time and effort required to connect “face to face” with your loved ones. You deserve a gold star! If you haven’t done it yet, it may be because you didn’t know how. Or perhaps you tried but the effort ended in frustration… or tears? If so, I believe this will help you. (If you want, you can skip the following story and go straight to the technical section at this point.)

Since I’ve been living with my grandmother, I haven’t needed to teach her how to use any video calling features on her smart phone or iPad. And to be honest, I know it wouldn’t work, not because she isn’t intelligent but because she can’t remember how to use the technology. She is 87 and in the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s. She isn’t in very bad shape at this point. Looking at her, you wouldn’t guess that she has memory difficulties. We actually spend a little time each week on her iPad together, reviewing over and over again how to use very basic features and apps. She’s made some gradual improvement, but the video call sessions we tried were very difficult. Even just answering the call was confusing for her.

Again, none of this was much of an issue until recently when we found out that we needed to leave for a few days to help another family member. Leaving my grandmother wouldn’t be a major issue since we now have a close friend who comes by to check on her a couple times a week. She’s also in a good daily routine, and Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) are no problem for her right now. We have mainly been helping her with the IADLs (Instrumental Activities of Daily Living) such as paying bills, shopping, some house cleaning, etc. 

Of course we could just call her on the phone, but we’ve learned how enriching and valuable it is to video call or Zoom with friends overseas. And being able to see grandma, her expression and emotion was important to us to get a better idea of how she’s doing. We could even see a little of the interior of the home. So how could we possibly set up a Zoom call remotely?

With COVID-19 forcing virtual communication on everyone, there are a growing number of “teach your grandparent how to Zoom” articles out there. They are usually a list of instructions that require your aged loved one to be fairly tech savvy, if not at least “tech comfy”.

A few years ago my friend said, “hey, guess what, I can access my home computer from my iPad”. I asked, “why would you want to do that?” and he replied “because sometimes I don’t want to get up off the couch.” I will leave him unnamed to save him any judgement. He told me about an app called Splashtop. It’s basically remote desktop access between your smart device and a computer. What is remote desktop access you ask? As an example, have you ever had someone repair your computer by accessing it remotely? You’ll see them operate the computer as if they’re sitting right in front of it. From another location, they are accessing your computer and seeing your desktop on their device. Splashtop has made that ability available for a relatively small fee.

How Much?

Free version: You can access your computer from within the same WIFI network only, which is cool, but not helpful for this application.

Month to month: $4.99 gets you the Anywhere Access Pack, which allows you to access your computer from anywhere in the world as long as you have WiFi or cellular data. But there’s a better option…

Annual: $16.99 a year for the Anywhere Access Pack (or $1.42/month).

I pay $16.99 per year and have for several years now. Now I know a lot of us got used to free apps or maybe paying a dollar for an app. But for only $1.42/month (annual plan) , it’s a powerful feature for your smartphone and tablet – yes, it works on both devices. Keep in mind this service can be used for many useful things, not just setting up a Zoom call remotely.  For example, if I have files or programs I need to access on my home computer, I can access it from anywhere that I have WIFI or cellular data. If my mother is having trouble using her computer or accessing a website, I can jump on her computer in less than a minute to see and fix the issue. And of course companies will use it for many applications including remote support.

If any of this sounds too technical, I should tell you that I’m personally not a techie. The most technical “computer” training I’ve I had was a typing class in eighth grade, which actually was the most valuable thing I learned in all of junior high. I’d say this is medium difficulty, not requiring specialized training other than learning how to use the app, downloading and installing the software, and knowing where to change your computer’s power and sleep settings.

Here’s What You’ll Need:

Computer with web camera and microphone, tablet (like iPad), smartphone (like iPhone) You’ll also need Zoom software, Splashtop App (iPhone or Android) and Splashtop Anywhere Access Pack (in app purchase), and the Splashtop streamer

Here’s the Prep:

On the computer you will need to download and install the Zoom software installed (installation instructions here). You will also need to download and install the Splashtop streamer (video instructions to install here). You will have to create a Splashtop account. PICK A VERY SECURE PASSWORD. 

On your tablet, you will need to download the Zoom app.  You can go to the Apple App Store or Google Play Store for this.

Zoom logo
Splashtop streamer logo

On  your smart phone, download the Splashtop App. This is in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. From within the App, you will purchase the Anywhere Access Pack.

Splashtop app logo

Similar to most blogs, the following suggestions are for informational purposes only as stated in our disclaimer

Here’s What I Do:

  • I leave a laptop computer on and connected to WIFI at my grandmother’s home.
  • I call my grandmother to let her know it’s time to sit down in front of the computer.
  • I start a Zoom meeting on my personal device, like my iPad.
  • I then use my iPhone to remote desktop in to the laptop. I open Zoom, and then enter the meeting credentials.
  • I make sure that the audio and camera are enabled. (If it’s done correctly, you’ll see the video stream of your relative!)
  • I can then close the Splashtop app on my phone as I’ve already signed on to the meeting.
  • I then jump back on the iPad for my Zoom meeting with grandma.

Here’s What You Should Know:

You could technically just use a single smart phone or tablet computer to start the Zoom meeting and then remotely connect in to the target computer. It would just be a matter of switching between the Zoom App and Splashtop App. The two device method is a little easier. Once you understand the concept you can decide which you prefer.

You need to adjust your computer’s settings to allow the screen to sleep but not let the actual computer sleep – usually this is in Power and Sleep settings. In other words, your computer stays on continually. You can restart the computer via the Splashtop app, however, you would need to make sure the Splashtop App is added to the list of Startup Apps. If you consider this too great a security risk (as the only truly safe computer is a powered off computer) then this won’t be a good solution for you.

This is probably obvious, but the computer at your relative’s house will need to be set up in person. The power settings need to be adjusted and software installed. And of course you need to find the right spot in the house to leave the computer.  But, if you can get that initial set up done, then you’re good to go – literally from anywhere in the world.

This only works one way when using a smart device to access a computer. It doesn’t work the other way around. You cannot use the computer to access and control the smart phone or tablet as far as I can tell. So if your loved one only has an iPad for example, then this set up won’t work. A computer can, of course, remotely control another computer. The destination or target computer will need the Splashtop streamer installed.

Another option which I have running currently, is to connect a desktop computer via HDMI cable to a TV which is in my grandmother’s kitchen. The TV has a webcam with microphone installed. All she has to do is turn the TV on, which is something she can still do. The TV input is set to the computer’s HDMI input, so it’s ready to go as soon as she turns it on.

Finally, if you’re interested in any of the Splashtop Business plans, that include features such as the Anywhere Access Pack along with file transfer capabilities, multiple user management, etc., you can get 30 days free on a new subscription if you use this link: https://agingsafelyathome.com/ghz9

Let Me Know How it Went!

Well, if you are willing to give it a try I’d love to hear how it worked for you. We’ve certainly enjoyed being able to video chat with grandma. And honestly, she enjoyed it even more than we did! We’re super happy to have this as an option to better stay in touch. And that’s what all of us want, to have a better quality of connection with our loved ones.

Hi, my name is Patrick Baker. This site is set up to provide suggestions and guidance for assisting senior citizens remain independent and at home for as long as possible. This can be accomplished through IADL care, which I've been researching in order to help my own grandmother remain independent and safe while aging in place. Please feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions.

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