Phone call to Ma in the NH -- a confusing shouting match.

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After several calls throughout the day, I finally got an answer, but my mother clearly couldn't hear me. I wonder if she is holding the handset upside down. I called back and got her again. When I said my name she seemed to recognize me.
me: "Ma, how are the tulips doing?"
Ma (Sounding very puzzled): "My lips are OK."
Me: "The tulip bulbs in the clear base on your window sill. Are they blooming?"
Ma: "Bleeding? What's bleeding?"
ME: "Blooming. I'm wondering if your tulip bulbs have flowers yet?"
Ma: "But are you bleeding?"
Me: "No Ma, no one is bleeding. Do you have flowers in your room?"
Ma: "Oh yes! All the tulip buds opened up and they are beautiful!"
Me: "I am so glad. Since we have a bad phone connection, I'll say goodbye now and see you tomorrow!"

This conversation, such as it was, was carried on in full volume.

Ma went to the nursing home last week. It is 32 miles from me, but somehow I don't think we'll be staying in touch by phone. Greeting cards and personal visits will be my choice.

Maybe when I see her tomorrow I can observe how she holds the phone.


And, good luck with hearing aid use if that's what she needs! There are some alternative simpler technologies that may work, maybe a university-based audiologist or adaptive technology specialist who does not stand to profit from selling a high tech expensive device that won't be usable could help.
I had this problem with my grandmother - what helped was to ask ahead of time for a nurse (when they had time and were willing) to stay in the room for a minute to make sure that she was holding the phone correctly and the call was okay before leaving. Most of the time the problem was that the phone was upside down or she wasn't holding the microphone side right against her ear. Sometimes my grandmother would have trouble hanging up the call too and the nurse would have to come back and get the phone hung up - they were quite patient there!
JG, frustrating! Does she wear hearing aids? They will cause a feedback situation with cordless phones, don't know about phones that are wired. I have to watch mom very closely when on the phone, she will always take hearing aids out so she can hear better. It was a three hour hunt one night to find the missing device. Is the handset turned up?
Ma doesn't wear hearing aids, and we don't think it is a good option to consider starting as she is 93. I dealt for 10 years with a dementia patient with hearing aides. Twice he lost them and once he microwaved them and he needed reminders to put them in. He acknowledged that he needed them and he wanted to hear, which helped make the struggle worthwhile. Mother does not believe she needs them. I'll pass on that particular battle. :-D

In person her hearing problems are not anything we can't cope with. On the phone ... well, she likes getting snail mail. :-D
its probably a matter of comprehension more than hearing jeanne. speaking in person works much better and the body language, lip reading and key words create the best results.
ie; how are your FLOWERS doing? ill bet theyre PRETTY..
hell your quite brilliant and know this jeanne. i think your just sharing a humorous moment..
lol. i told ednas SIL yesterday that key words were the best strategy. i gave for example " PUNCH in the NOSE " ( with fist threat ) to which edna smiled and wielded a bony fist back at me.. in person dont forget to aim ( throw ) your voice at the elders ears.
Forgive me, but I had to chuckle at the conversation, Jeanne. It can be the stuff of comedy at times.

I also don't want to try hearing aides with my mom, though she is hard of hearing. Her technological education stopped in the 1960s before the time of video tapes. Gadgetry would only confuse her and get left on her dresser or lost. It's a lot of money to spend for something that wouldn't be used. I mentioned the Lyric brand to her, but she said she didn't want anything stuck in her ear. Besides, we would have to have them replaced every three months or so, and I never know what the next month will bring.
Hi Jeanne!

It IS funny, isn't it? Yep, this kind of stuff happens to me every single day. Mom's got Alzheimer's; she's in an assisted living residence. She's got hearing aids but, like others have mentioned, any kind of newfangled technology or -- oh, I don't know -- HAVING TO REMEMBER TO PUT THE HEARING AIDS IN is wasted on her.

No word of a lie, this morning's conversation went something like this:

"Chris! How do I spell FIRED? I've got F-I-R-D."
"No, Mom. It's E-D...... F-I-R-E-D."
"Beg your pardon?"
"Mom? Are you writing this down as I say it? F-I-R-E-D. Read it back to me."
At which point she starts to cry because she can't read her chicken scratch, and has forgotten how to spell.

Oh Jeanne that is so funny! I know it's frustrating but it's so funny because it's the exact kind of phone conversations my dad and I had. When he WASN'T holding the phone upside down, which he did all the time. I'd get a voicemail from him and all it would be was 3 minutes of dead air punctuated by my dad's cussing. I could tell he had the phone upside down and while I listened to the voice mail I would root for him to figure it out but he never would. Then I'd call him back and he'd say, "I just tried to call you but something must be wrong with my phone." Or I'd call him and he'd be fumbling with the phone (having heard it ring he would answer) but he didn't think he did it right and I'd be screaming, "DAD!! DAD!! DAD!!" And I'd feel guilty about just hanging up but that's the point we got to.

I have seen so many elderly people (with and without dementia) struggle with the phone. What IS that?! And they don't have sophisticated iPhones or Androids. I'm talking basic cordless phones or even basic flip phones. The numbers on the key pad should be a clue as to how the phone is held. Even my aunt, who is 90 and sharp as a tack, gets the phone upside down. Yesterday I had a very long conversation with her chin and she kept saying, "I'm having a hard time hearing you." She's not hard of hearing. No dementia. She's just old. But I had to yell so she could hear me with the phone upside down.

My dad had his cell phone is his room at the NH and while he used to use it with no problems it became more difficult for him. I tried to walk him through it when I was there (you open it and then you dial the phone number) but it was just too difficult for him and I removed the phone from his room otherwise he'd spy it sitting on the dresser and we'd both spend a half an hour trying to talk to eachother. It was sad.

Good topic, Jeanne!

Jeanne, it's good to know that sometimes even you, who has wonderful, caring answers to so many of the issues the rest of us have, can be flummoxed! I talk to my mom maybe once a week and keep the conversation light and simple. The only wuestion I ask is "how are you". Everything else is me telling funny stories about grandchildren and work. Be well, my dear. We'll be in their shoes before too long!

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