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5 Tips to Help our Loved Ones with Using Telephones


An older adult using the telephone with support from a loved one

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

1.    Look into captioned phones or app technology

If a loved one is hard of hearing, frustration over an inability to hear the person on the other end of the telephone can cause arguments and telephone evasion. Captioned phones, which provide word-for-word captions of telephone conversations, can be a helpful solution for our hard-of-hearing loved ones. They work like a regular telephone, but they have display screens where a loved one can read their conversations as well as listen to them. Some states offer captioned phones for free or at a reduced rate. Details about the service options of each state are available on the CapTel website.
For smartphone users, there are also apps available with similar functions. A list of phone captioning apps is available through Healthy Hearing.

2.    Account for vision problems

If a loved one has trouble seeing, they may end up dialing the wrong phone number. Many companies make telephones with big buttons that may help our loved ones with vision impairment avoid this problem. These phones are also helpful if a loved one suffers from hand tremors. 

3.    Use special phones for loved ones with memory loss

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

4.    Choose a dial-less phone

Dial-less phones that only receive calls can also be helpful if a loved one is in the middle or late stages of dementia. With these phones, a loved one won't be scammed by unsolicited sales pitches, dial the wrong number or make calls at inappropriate hours. We will still be able to call a loved one, without burdening them with the need to dial out.

5.    Take precautions against telephone scams

There are many telemarketers and robocallers claiming to be reputable organizations that will take advantage of our loved ones by trying to steal personal information like their social security numbers, credit card numbers, bank accounts and more. We should take extra precautions to assure our loved ones do not fall prey to these scams. We can register a loved one's phone number on the National Do Not Call Registry online to help eliminate potential scammers. 

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

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