Yes, the telephone can cause dementia confusion. Like most ADLs, using the telephone is rarely a problem for the person with early stage dementia. 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 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. Including using the telephone.
Check the phone bill
As you find your family member lose the ability to perform activities of daily living… you will find what they can do and no longer do.
Using the telephone is a bit different.
Checking the phone bill sometimes reveals the first sign there is a problem.
Some things to look for:
- Long distance calls that don’t make sense.
- Not remember making calls. These can be to at any time of day or night.
- Accepting collect calls from unknown sources or estranged family members.
- Ordering things they see on TV
- Making contributions to organizations they have seen ask for donation on TV
- Becoming a victim of a scam
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 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 sales reps blocked from calling.
Here is a link to the National Do Not Call Registry.
There are people who would be more than glad to separate your elderly family member and their money. Under no circumstance should your family member have to fret over how much to give. Even for 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. Dementia affects 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 enticing to those with dementia.
Avoid dementia confusion. 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 many times a day.
I know many family caregivers with family members in assisted living. Or the family member is still living independently. The family caregivers complain about getting phone calls every few minutes. Or they have, a family member with dementia, calling the police. To report imagined robberies. Many, falsely accusing their own family members. As you could imagine, this is a source of great stress for the family.
Avoid dementia confusion and 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 cannot be used to harass the person with dementia. Nor can they over-use the phone to bother others. All ADLs, including using the telephone, can be managed. Understanding your options and implementing what works best in your situation.
Dementia confusion can be increased when:
A family member sundown
Or, when loud unexpected noises, such as a ring on the phone, causes a distraction. It can lead 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 :