Yes, the telephone can cause dementia confusion. Like most ADLs, using the telephone is not often a problem for the person with early stage dementia. But as the disease progresses, there are a few problems that your family member might encounter if they has access to a phone. Some of these ideas will hopefully answer some of your questions (even ones you haven’t thought of yet!)
Be aware of any dementia confusion in using the phone
Do not assume your family member will know how to use a phone correctly. Chances are, they will retain the knowledge and ability about using the telephone for quite some time. Still, some days you might find your family member a little more confused than usual. It’s during these “down days” that you might need to provide more direct assistance with ADLs, using the telephone included.
Check the phone bill
You can find weaknesses in your family members ability to perform ADLs independently, usually by observing whether or not they actually an activity or not, or of they do it well. Using the telephone is a bit different. Checking the phone bill sometimes reveals the first sign to the family has that there is a problem with phone use. Long distance calls that don’t make sense, not remember making calls, accepting collect calls from unknown sources or estranged family members. These are signs that phone monitoring is necessary.
To decrease dementia confusion- Block calls from people you don’t want calling
This is especially important if the your family member with dementia is still living alone. This might not be as big a problem if they live with you or if someone else always answers the phone. The elderly, especially those with dementia, are especially vulnerable to fraud. You can contact your phone company to have telemarketers and similar sales reps blocked from calling.Here is a link to the National Do Not Call Registry. People who would be more than glad to part your elderly family member and their money.Under no circumstance should your family member have to fret over how much to give to,even the most worthy sounding causes.
Avoid dementia confusion and put a block on who they can call
Blocked calls work both ways. Sometimes it’s not who calls home but who your elderly family member calls that could get them in trouble. Since dementia will affect judgment, your family member is prone to making emotional decisions. Thus, they might order a product they just saw on television, even though they might not need it. Televangelists making a donation pitch, “call now!” product offers, and “free” information or kit offers are effectively enticing to those with dementia.
Avoid dementia confusion and make the telephone available at certain times of the day
This can be effective for certain people. It is also easier to do at home than in another setting where you have little control over phone use. Some dementia sufferers will call a family member or other known number multiple times a day. I know many family caregivers with family members in assisted living or still living independently complain about getting phone calls every few minutes, or the family member with dementia calling the police to report imagined robberies ( many accusing their own family members) As you could imagine, this is a source of great stress for the family.
Avoid dementia confusion and totally remove the home phone
This is an option that more families are taking. Especially with the advent of cell phones, many homes are opting to get rid of land lines altogether. This way, the person with dementia does not have access to a phone. The telephone, then, cannot be used either to harrass the person with dementia, nor can they over-use it to bother others. All ADLs, including using the telephone, can be managed a little easier by understanding your options and implementing what works best in your situation.
Dementia confusion can be increased when a family member sundowns or when loud unexpected noises (such as a ring on the phone) is distracting and leads to a negative behavior, such as stopping eating, or even a catastrophic reaction.
Here are some other tips that you may find useful when providing ADL’s :
- Personal Care
- Medication management
- Managing finances