A few months back, I saw a press release for a new piece of phone technology, one that you can use to tell your mother - why is it always our mother? - that she's already called you 17 times today, three of those times within the last half-hour. You attach the device to your elders phone and a message pops up on a big screen that alerts them to their repetitious phone activity. I wish now that I'd saved the release.
The fact that a company actually came up with this message device is proof of how common phone use problems among those with dementia and alzheimer's disease actually is. It sounds like a good option, and it may help in some cases, but my mother would have decided it was broken, or "lying," and would have called me over to have it removed.
I often tell my audiences that my mother used the phone as a weapon. They generally get a good laugh, while they are nodding their heads. They know. They know.
Mom would call and tell me something that she loved was on TV - either a Britcom or some music. She really liked public television, and this is usually what she had on in the evening. She'd ask me to hurry and turn it on. Well, that was nice, but I don't have time for TV. I would, of course, tell her I'd turn it on, then thank her and hang up. Then she'd call again with the same message. And again. And again. I know she was just trying to share, but it gets old.
She would also call and ask why I wasn't there to visit her in the nursing home that day. I would remind her that I was there on my way to work earlier that morning. Oh. She'd forgotten. Or she'd call on January 15th and ask me if her taxes were done yet. She'd do this daily until they were done and I brought them for her to sign. How many calls is that? You do the math.
When she called and I wasn't home, she'd leave a message. Sometimes she'd leave five messages saying basically the same thing. Sometimes she'd just call and hang up - no message. I think those times she may have been questioning herself - she may have had some inkling that she'd already done this. But then, her memory being what it was, she'd call again. And hang up. And again. And hang up.
Before Mom was in the nursing home, she was in an apartment and she wore a wrist band that was a personal alarm. These things are terrific, by the way, and any negatives are by far outweighed by the positives. But, silver linings have a cloud, right?
I'd be stepping out of the shower and wrapping a cozy robe around me, after a long day. I would be thinking, maybe I could sit down for a couple of minutes and read before bed.
Rrrrrrrrrring! A disembodied voice would say, "Carol? This is dispatch. Your mother's alarm just went off. Could you please check on her?"
"Ah, yes," I'd say. "Sure."
I'd pull on my sweats and drive over to Mom's. Most of the time she was lying on the floor and I was glad I went. However, any number of times she'd be in her chair, watching TV and looking at me like I was a lunatic as I burst through her door. She had accidentally set off her alarm. I could go home now.