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Why are Phone Converations Difficult for Alzheimer's Patients?

by Carole Larkin, Alzheimer's & Dementia Expert
March 14, 2013

Question: Are phone conversations difficult for Alzheimer’s patients due to the absence of visual cues? Because of this, are in-room telephones usually provided at managed care facilities?

Answer: Generally phone conversations become more difficult due to the fact that the person begins to not be able to formulate word or use the correct word to express what they are thinking and feeling. Also, yes, they may misunderstand what the person on the other end of the line is saying because the no longer can associate words with the meaning of those words and cannot see body language to help them with that. Those problems don’t usually happen until mid-stage or later in the disease. Generally phone lines are available to people in Assisted Living, but by the time the person is far enough along in the disease to require a secure Memory Care unit or community; telephones are not provided for the residents. Usually they would have to ask staff to help them use the facility’s phone. By that time remembering and dialing a phone number is beyond their capability. Also, even if they are capable of remembering or dialing a phone, they generally don’t remember if they have called the person before, that day. To save family members from receiving 20-30 or more calls a day from the resident; phones generally are not made readily available to the residents.

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Carole Larkin MA, CMC, CAEd, QDCS, EICS is a geriatric care manager who specializes in helping families with Alzheimer’s and related dementias issues. She also trains caregivers in home care companies, assisted livings, memory care communities, and nursing homes in dementia specific techniques for best care of dementia sufferers. Her company, ThirdAge Services LLC, is located in Dallas, TX.

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