Telephones and Alzheimer’s

Commencing from my dad’s earliest onset of Alzheimer’s, it became obvious that answering the telephone was going to become an issue.

Back then, my father was still sitting behind the front counter of our bookstore. If he managed to grab the phone before I got to it, I would witness a blank stare evolve across his face. Sometimes he stayed completely voiceless as he held the receiver to his ear, then slowly he placed it back on its base. When I asked him who had just called, he would just nonchalantly respond, “Heck if I know.” I realized we wouldn’t be in business for very long if this continued.

I purchased a wireless headset and removed the telephone from behind the counter. This prompted my father into asking me straight-out, “So, I guess you don’t want me answering the phone anymore?” My heart sank deep into my chest as I told him “No, I think it would be best if I cared for all business calls from now on.”

Another problem was the phone in our store also rang in our house. I would be talking with a customer when all of a sudden my father would be putting his two cents worth in from our kitchen. Asking him to please hang up was pointless. Eventually, I shut off all the ringers on the phones near him in the house until our bill for long distance started having randomly dialed international calls. Finally this left me with absolutely no choice but to remove all phones in our house, except for one which stayed in my sleeping quarters.

More than one fellow caregiver has told me that their patient formed a habit of dialing 911 just to have a conversation with someone.

Expecting them to write messages down is just wishful thinking. This is where caller ID is useful because at least you can look back and see who called. Call forwarding also became handy; at times I would have all our calls transferred to my cell phone.

I’m just warning you now that as the Alzheimer’s advances, your telephone will, without a doubt, become a dilemma. Planning and anticipating changes will ease some of the inevitable hardships and hurt feeling that lie ahead.