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tips for caregivers: Using the telephone

For many of our loved ones, hearing and vision problems develop over time and create problems when they want to use the telephone. When your loved one has challenges that cause them to avoid using the phone, tension can ensue. Help your loved one retain their independence with these tips for addressing the many different challenges that may cause your loved one to stop using the phone.

  1. Is your loved one hard of hearing? Frustration over hearing the person on the other end of the telephone can cause arguments and telephone evasion. Captioned phones are a great solution for your hard-of-hearing loved one. Captioned phones from companies like CapTel, CaptionCall and Clear Captions, provide word-for-word captions of your loved one's telephone conversations. Captioned phones work like a regular telephone, but they have display screens where your loved one can read their conversations as well as listen to them. Some states offer captioned phones for free or at a reduced rate; visit www.captel.com/states to learn about the programs in your state.

  2. If your loved one has trouble seeing, they may end up dialing the wrong phone number. Many companies make telephones with big buttons that are perfect for your loved one with vision impairment. These phones are also helpful if your loved one suffers from hand tremors.

  3. If your loved one has dementia, it is common for them to dial the wrong number, forget important phone numbers and forget to hang up the phone. Telephones made specifically for seniors with memory loss have pictures for buttons instead of numbers. Instead of having to dial a phone number, your loved one simply has to press the button with your photo on it to dial you. Picture memory phones can also be programed with all the buttons only going to one number so that your loved one doesn't make random calls.

  4. Dial-less phones can only receive calls; these phones are helpful if your loved one is in the middle and late stages of dementia. Your loved one won't be seduced by unsolicited sales pitches, dial the wrong number or make calls at inappropriate hours. You will still be able to call your loved one, without burdening them with the need to dial out.

  5. Don't let your loved one fall for a scam on the phone. There are many telemarketers and robocalls claiming to be reputable organizations that will take advantage of your loved one by trying to steal personal information like their social security number, credit card number, bank accounts and more. Register your loved one's phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry to help eliminate potential scammers. Visit www.donotcall.gov to register your loved one's phone number.

    A version of this article appeared in the Private Health News.