Communicating Via Phone When Loved Ones Have Dementia
By Rachael Wonderlin | Dementia by Day

I wanted to send out a brief email on how to communicate with your loved ones via the telephone. I don’t want to launch into a whole thing about coronaviruses, because if you’re anything like me, that’s ALL you’ve been hearing about recently. I certainly don’t need to tell you anything more on that.

I do, however, want to give you some thoughts and considerations for how to discuss this with your loved ones with dementia.

Some of you may not be able to visit your loved ones because of safety rules and regulations, or, perhaps, you’re just concerned about getting them sick. I think that is wise: our older adults, particularly those with other health issues, are at higher risks of getting sick.

Here are my tips:

  1. Stay calm. Anxiety is very contagious. When you are visiting or talking with someone living with dementia, do your best not to bring them into your anxiety. Trust me: it won’t make you feel better, either.
  2. If you are not able to visit your loved one, assess if they can use the telephone. Have you called them before? Do they understand who is calling when you speak? How is their hearing? Consider whether it makes sense to reach out to them via phone.
  3. If it DOES make sense to reach out via phone, make a little script of what you want to say to them. I would recommend avoiding a whole explanation of why you can’t visit. It is likely to be confusing and isn’t really solution-based. A good thing to say is, “I’ll see you soon, things have been pretty busy lately, I love you and I’ll be by ASAP.”