How worried should I be about phone confusion?


My parents are not tech savvy. They can make and receive calls on their flip phone cells, but mom does not know how to turn off alarms and dad is convinced they are using up minutes if they leave the cell phones on. They still buy minutes/time.
Now they are confusing their cordless home phones with the cell phones. Dad presses the wrong button (talk button) when he 'hangs up', doesn't actually hang up but leaves the phone 'off the hook'. I watched him do this when I was there. He put the phone down and it was the off the hook beeping but he didn't hear it because he didn't have his hearing aids in. This ties the phone up in 'busy' mode for full days or until they find the phone and put it back in its cradle. Since they won't leave the cell phones on, I have no way (neither does anyone else) of reaching them, so I leave a message on the cell to call me. They never get these messages, now the voicemail box on mom's phone is full.
I called my mom's cell one day and it actually was on and she answered. I told her I had tried to call, but their home phone was busy. She then went to the home phone, picked it up and said 'Hello, hello?' I heard this in the background while she was doing it. I said Mom, I'm calling you on your cell phone, your home phone isn't connected to your cell. omg. And we went through that conversation several times. I asked her to please go to the home phone and hang it up, which she did, then asked her to hang up the phones after dad talks on them.
I sent old 1980's style trimline phones with no buttons shortly before this episode, but my dad doesn't like them because it doesn't have caller id. They have not plugged them in to try them. This was after I had started shopping for them and they did the busy signal thing in front of the home care nurse and she also thought it is "time for corded phones". (edit I spoke to her briefly at that time about it)
This phone confusion gets drastically worse when there is something going on with mom like illness, dr appts she's worried about, company, or a change in schedule. She told me if she "gets under stress a little, then stuff doesn't go right". If her hbg drops below a certain point, she is also very confused. Sometimes mom apologizes about the phones, but a lot of times there seems to be just a stunned silence or big pause and she says "Really??" when I tell her the phone is busy again. So anyway, all this confusion and family there is blowing off the phones I sent, but I am still trying to give daily med minder calls. This and sometimes I think she is just scared and afraid she'll get in trouble with me somehow if she misses an appointment, but I am usually pretty even toned with her and just tell her that's ok if she forgets, she's tired, and that she can just call them and reschedule. I've tried telling her that if their power goes out, the corded phones will still work, that no one can reach them when the phone is busy, asked her what they would do if the cordless phones are dead and the cell phones are dead, how will they call 911 in emergencies? etc, etc.
The next time I go to see them, I'll be plugging the phones into the wall, but that could be more than a month. Now she is talking about sending them back to me. I basically got ordered by sibling to make these med calls and ever since, it is like they are trying to get me to QUIT calling her. the phone being busy all day & night thing has been going on for several years before they both started to decline and I think the only solution is a different phone you can just pick up or hang up - no buttons to confuse. Can anyone think of anything else I can do?

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.
Find Care & Housing


Send, thanks...that is more to think about. Your experience sounds familiar to me. I am very practiced at deflecting manipulation, but yes this has gotten to the point where as a normal person I think wt* is WRONG with these people. It is indeed crazymaking. They just don't realize it won't get them anything. I will never, ever understand the continued effort in the wrong direction!

I'm sorry to say, I know more than I'm supposed to about what's going on with other family members. Secrets. So sometimes the dementia is to my advantage that way.

Mom does have a check in with people in the area.

Roxann, There was a very good senior meal served in their tiny town and they ate with the locals 3 times a week or so. Then the cooks switched out and the food became so bad, that most people quit going.

Then there were church people bringing food, but mom told them to STOP! Complained it was too much food.

Another sibling and I have both put home cooked food in the freezer, but mom forgets it for months at a time.

I may not stop calling for two weeks since this is leading up to Xmas, but I need to just chill out about getting a busy signal. I can stop trying to get results, agreement, change, and action right now.
I appreciate your comments and everyone's.

Probably would be doing better if problems hadn't gotten stacked so high this year, but they did so I am staying home for Xmas.

It is snowing here, I am enjoying that.
Helpful Answer (2)

This is only going to continue to get worse. Make sure they have an emergency pendant or can otherwise summons help. And hire someone to be able to go to their house to hang up the phone and check on their well being.
Helpful Answer (2)

I ended up just putting my MIL on our family plan cell phone and getting the simplest phone. The land line she would sometimes answer but frequently didn't dial out rightly and the cell phone works when she's traveling with us and she has mixed luck on her own. Basically if you need daily check in get something like Meal on Wheels or something.
Helpful Answer (0)

Oh, so sorry that your concerns are being wasted on what seems like a long-term issue with the phones. Since you say it is dysfunctional, have you thought about how both your parents have arranged to keep it going this way, as it is serving their needs exactly.
Screening their calls, phones off the hook, not answering unless they want.

You can relax a little, because there are two of them. If something happens, it is likely one will have clarity to call out for help at some time.

It speaks volumes that sibling who does go there was unaware of the phone issue, (or is just denying it). You may know this going in, but the dysfunction is just crazy-making.
My concerns would be for you, being jerked around by your dys family, holding tight to that string at the end of the helium balloon until they really need to USE you.

I don't know if this fits your parents exactly, or even nearly, but you are correct. The phone issue is a common sign of the first "problem" of decline to be expressed observable by those outside of the home.

Another is the mail, and the bills go missing, therefore, unpaid.

As I sat with a loved one, I observed the avoidance of the phone calls, the many calls, too many to answer, the loud voice mail so he knew who called. It got so when I called, I left a message that I was calling back in ten minutes. I asked if he was getting too many calls, he answered, yes. He said his daughter upsets him. There were actually too many persons involved, calling, calling each other, others denying there was a problem, not calling anyone.

Much damage was done by neglecting to address the decline by taking real action.
The one in charge, denying the problem, was profiting by everyone doing nothing and being confused.

That's all I can say, it was my experience observing. The parents were fully in charge, until they weren't.

I can tell that you are the ONE.  The one who can get to the bottom of this.  Try putting off the phone solution until the new year.  Stop calling for two weeks.  We don't want to lose you in the process.  I believe you were right to reach out to AC.  Others will have gone through this, and even if it is not exactly the same, someone will say something to help you cope.

In the meantime, obtain the local phone number of the sheriff or police (not 911), but the non-emergency number to call for a welfare check when needed.  They will go by.

Your dB, goes by, but now goes by less.  There has to be someone trustworthy to be in charge.
What are their plans for the holiday?  You seem busy with your friend who also needs you.
Helpful Answer (4)

There's also a landline phone with pictures on it - Amazon has one called PictureCare.
Helpful Answer (2)

Send, I am acknowledging your answer as probably correct...

I just feel like a kid with a helium balloon on a ribbon... if I lose my grip on it, God knows where it'll end up! It is very hard to let go.

My dB (giving orders) is the other involved one... he goes some mornings to check her meds. It is less now b/c he changed work hours.

I talked to him about the phones and he said he said he was unaware of the problems - even tho it's been going on for 3 or 4 years and neighbors have also complained that they can't get thru to my parents. The others do also help, but not as much. I've asked the local ones directly if they have asked the parents to hire help. No, they haven't.

the saddest thing is, there is no lack of money. Having half-day daily help would not break the bank. It is just the same as everyone else - they do not want outsiders in the house.
Helpful Answer (2)

Branching out,
Making the medication calls are not working, so stop.
This won't be the first time a sibling has ordered another sibling to do something and it has not worked.
This is a sign that your parents need a higher level of care, with boots on the ground, not more confusing phone calls. The end result of all your good efforts will be when your parents say: "I don't know what is wrong with Branch, keeps calling upsetting us, interrupting our peaceful day with sooo many phone calls." Or something like that.
Another time when no good deed goes unpunished.

Someone needs to be there, imo.

Sorry, I posted before seeing your last post.

Who exactly, is the go to person who sees your parents more often?I agree that they are not " fine".
Helpful Answer (2)

Thanks for all the replies. Maybe check here for some answers to your questions.
This is a complex dysfunctional situation. I feel some regret posting on AC because I seem to realize after I type the whole thing out each time that there really isn't too much I can do from here or in my situation. There are more ridiculous details about the phones, but it is sort of too crazy to explain - except to say their cordless phone system does not work in expected ways.
There are a passel of people where my parents live, but parents only allow Some to help. I keep hoping, since my mom talks daily to a couple of her friends, that one of them might nudge her to consider a better living situation. As far as I know, I am the only one who has directly told them to hire some help, and suggested AL to them, everyone else wants to keep them home and make claims that they're doing fine.
They are not doing fine.
I called mom this morning, she feels bad that I'm getting frustrated about the phones. She said she was going to plug in the phone & call me right away and .... nothing. It seems too much, too hard to figure out for them. Which is why IMO she is further along than MCI.
And yes, the sibling I talked to wanted to know 'what's the deal with the phones?' I explained, but then they didn't bother to plug them into the phone jacks for me because dad complained there was no caller id. sigh. Just TRY it OUT! lol. Jeez!!!

I'll check out some of your suggestions here and see if I can find the products you're all talking about, but then will they go along with it? That seems to be the biggest problem and is probably best handled in person on my next visit over there.
Helpful Answer (1)

FF, I think you're right that many side effects of cell phone batteries in close proximity to the brain won't be detected until several years. I can't even begin to imagine the class actions suits that will ensue.

And while this many seem like paranoia, it wouldn't surprise me if the tech companies are using their very ample financial resources (especially the ones paying less taxes because of offshore shielding) to suppress publication or, or further any research on the effects of batteries near the brain.

In 1993, Reginald Lewis, CEO of Beatrice, died of brain cancer. I recall reading, in Fortune, I believe, that he was a consistent cell phone user, and this was before cell phones became as popular as they are now.

Just did a quick search to confirm my recollection and also found that Joe Biden's son died of a neuroblastoma, at age 46. There's some good information on that and its relation to radiation at that site: "RF Safe". Add the https and www to this URL:

Note that this article includes caution that children are at greater risk from cell phone radiation than adults. Yikes. I hate to think of these little kids being exposed at such a young age and developing serious life threatening problems later. And the children aren't able to comprehend the research as much as their parents, who enable them to use these cell phones.

I never even thought of carrying phone books with me in the car, but that's a good idea. We don't travel much outside of our immediate area much any more b/c of the oxygen issue - I'd have to take a battery of tanks just to visit relatives a few hours away. So all I need is a local county directory.
Helpful Answer (2)

GardenArtist, the last couple of years I have been carrying the 6"x 9" smaller telephone books that are thrown in the driveway each year. They fit nicely in the side pockets on the driver's door.

Oh, I am also very concerned about having a cell battery too close to my head. I have heard of people keeping their iPhone or whatever under their pillow. Yikes, I would never do that. I put my cell in another part of my bedroom at night. I just have a feeling the cellphone many years down the road will be on par with cigarettes which took decades to prove to be harmful.
Helpful Answer (4)

This question has been closed for answers. Ask a New Question.