Alzheimer's Caregivers: Control Your Phone!
Technology is a double-edged sword
Forget about Homer in the Odyssey. Today's sirens are the songs and vibrations of our cell phones.
I constantly hear from my clients how little time they have as their smart phones keep streaming info to them during our sessions... and the clients keep looking at them!
Let's face it - when you provide Alzheimer's care to a loved one, your phone becomes your lifeline!
Growing up we had one telephone land line until I was a teenager, then dad added another. No, I was not a priviledged teenager, although it was a pretty pink princess phone... Dad did this to save his sanity!
Back in 1899 when dad was born, there were no phones. Well, that's not totally true. Thanks to Mr. A.G. Bell in 1876, we had the birth of the telephone. But the telephone back then was a far cry from what we have now, and service was limited.
The phone replaced the telegraph and in that era phones were mostly used to transmit the most essential information, and not all news was good. So, I grew up in a home where the ringing of the phone often signaled that someone was sick or dying.
Especially if the phone rang after 9pm.
Gone are the good old days for many of us, where if you were home you answered the phone, and if you weren't home, the person just called back. There were no answering machines and sometimes nobody was home to take a message.
Think about that. It wasn't that long ago that when people made plans, they showed up at the designated meeting area on time. No calling to say that you were running late, or had to cancel at the last minute.
But then came the message machines, the pagers, the cell phones and now smart phones that bring the mobile internet to the palm of our hand.
Alzheimer's Caregivers are on Call 24/7!
For many caregivers, the added stress and anxiety of being digitally connected is increasing their caregiver stress! Being so connected has changed the way that we give and receive Alzheimer's care.
Gone are the days where getting in touch meant during normal business hours or -- Egad! -- waiting at home for a phone call.
Now, we put in a call to the doctor and then go about our day.
Shutting off the phones is not a logical option. However, depending on the stages of dementia that your loved one is in, different stages of dementia will call for (no pun intended) different strategies.
In the early stage of dementia, the support you may have to give might be of plans and reassurance to a loved one. This is the time to set boundaries. Yes, you want to be there for your loved one, but unless it's a 911 situation, being on call 24/7 can be stressful!
Set the times that work best for you.
Many of my clients work full time and/or are raising families. For many, a quick phone call in the morning or on the way to work provides the reassurance your loved one will need to give you both peace of mind.
During the middle stages of dementia is when many caregivers get bombarded with phone calls.
If you haven't already done so, give your loved one and their caregiver a unique ring tone. This way you will know who is calling, and will reduce your anxiety every time the phone rings.
Set time limits for both, twice a day or whatever works best for you.
For emergencies (especially if you are at work) set up a unique ring pattern. For example, the caller will let the phone ring 3 times, hang up, then call back immediately. That way, if you hear three rings followed by another phone call, you will know the person calling needs to get in touch with you immediately. This works well even if your phone is set on vibrate.
When a person is in the severe stages of dementia, phone calls from your loved ones will usually end. A person in the severe stage no longer has the memory or capacity to use a phone. During this stage of dementia you will be receiving phone calls from the the in-home caregivers, aides, ALF, or hospice.
No matter what stage of dementia your loved one is in, setting a unique ring tone and pattern will be a sanity saver.
I know first hand the anxiety and stress that a ringing phone can bring. Whether I was at work, in the car, with the kids or out with friends, a call from home meant a problem.
When you are providing Alzheimer's care, every call appears important. But, you don't have to go through this journey alone. In the first chapter of my book, available for free download, I will tell you how to make the best and most practical decisions for you and your loved one.
Every month, we're giving away a free copy of "Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias: The Caregiver's Complete Survival Guide" to a new member of our community. Enter to win a copy by entering your email in the "Subscribe" form on this page.