Parkinson's and Passwords

I had a rough conversation with my dad, who has PD, this morning - not because anything was terribly wrong, but because one, seemingly small thing, was stuck between us: his gmail password.

Technology and parents - it’s an old story, right? I imagine there were cavemen asking their children how to light the fire. I certainly remember fixing the flashing 12:00 on my parents VCR in the 1980’s more than once or a dozen times.

But we’re much more dependent on technology these days - it really has become ubiquitous. In some ways, that’s great. It was the promise of my youth, a connected, digital world, and it has largely come to pass. We have access to so much and it’s relatively immediate.

In some ways, though, it’s not so great - like on a human connection level. My dad and I spent 45 minutes this morning trying to figure out how to get him into his gmail account. It took every fiber of my being to stay calm through this process as I was sure it was a relatively simple matter that I simply couldn’t communicate effectively. Not being able to lay my hands on his ipad, iphone or macbook to do the work for him meant trying to explain it to him and having him read back to me what he saw.

Parkinson’s plays a part in this. My dad describes his mind as cloudy at times - he gets confused. His voice is definitely soft and his speech is often muddy. All of this stresses him out, which compounds the situation greatly.

The phone was too dim at one point and he couldn’t read the screen. The ipad was unresponsive in the next moment. And, the aforementioned Holy Grail of Tech Terror was last: his incorrect attempts at entering his password had locked him out....for 14 hours for some odd reason. That number seemed strangely and specifically punitive.

Like I said, there’s something human and, perhaps, generational about this. Sitting to play video games with my 9 year old son leaves me feeling like an idiot - and I’ve placed my initials on more than a few top 10 high score boards at my local arcade...back when there were a lot of local arcades.

Regardless, what it reminded me of as much as anything is our distance. That makes me sad. As his son, as a care partner, I want to be close. I want to help. I want him to be happy. Unfortunately, I can’t have it the way I want. If I did, Parkinson’s wouldn’t exist. While that wouldn’t be a panacea, it would be one big block off his, mine, and probably your plate, too.

There would still be passwords though...

— written by Robert Cochrane

Parkinson's Place