Leaving the telephone off the hook is a common problem for people with Alzheimer's, dementia, or any form of cognitive loss.
At the very least it can be a nuisance, however it can also potentially be dangerous as relatives & friends may not be able to contact the individual.
While there are no perfect solutions to this problem that many people with dementia face, we have listed some ideas that may help below.
1) Use a corded telephone
Some individuals with dementia or cognitive loss struggle to hang-up cordless telephones, the handsets can also be lost, or they could run out of battery.
Having to push the red "end call" button is something that's easily forgotten. Especially for people who grew up with corded telephones, where simply returning the phone to the cradle ends the call.
Using a corded telephone has the following advantages:
- Simply returning the telephone to the base-unit will end the call
- The person on the phone must remain close to the base-unit
- A corded telephone left off the hook is more clearly off the hook than a cordless phone
While this isn't a perfect solution, it can help with the issue, especially if used in combination with the 2 points below.
2) Use a wall-mountable corded telephone
With a standard corded telephone, some people with dementia will simply place the telephone on the table next to the base-unit, and not in the cradle itself.
A wall-mounted telephone, with no table or resting place nearby, can help prevent this from happening. This method can be effective as there is nowhere to place the handset, except from back in the cradle.
Additionally, when a wall-mounted corded telephone is left off the hook it is very obvious that this is the case, increasing the chance of someone realising when walking past the telephone.
3) Use an amplified telephone to increase the chance of hearing the "howler"
Most telephones in the UK will play a loud noise, or a prerecorded message, when left off the hook. This is called a "howler".
The problem with the howler is that it can only be played as loud as the telephone handset's volume allows, which may not be loud enough for individuals who are hard-of-hearing.
Purchasing an amplified telephone will allow you to increase the volume of the handset, and consequently the volume of the howler.
However this technique must be used with caution, as a loud "howler" noise (with no explanation), may cause distress to an individual with dementia.
A telephone network that plays the prerecorded message "you've left your phone off the hook" may be more suitable & less distressing.
4) Use a device that has a specific "you've left your telephone off the hook" feature
The only product we are aware of in the UK at this moment in time that has an "off-the-hook feature", is the TrueCall Care Unit.
The main use of the TrueCall Care is to prevent unwanted & unsolicited telephone calls.
However the TrueCall Care also has a built-in speaker that will play an automated message informing the individual that they've left the phone off the hook.
The TrueCall Care is an expensive solution (£119.99) if you only intent to use it to prevent the phone being left off the hook, but if you also need a call-blocker, then it may be worth the cost.
You can buy the TrueCall Care from the two links above, one is our product page, and the other is directly from TrueCall.co.uk.
The TrueCall Care will only warn you if you have left your main telephone off the hook, and not any additional phones that use extension sockets.
5) Use a spare mobile phone with custom ringtone
This is a brilliant & innovative solution supplied by "simknt" on the Alzheimer's Society Talking Point forum, and involves an old mobile phone.
- An old mobile phone with a customisable ringtone feature
- A place to hide the mobile phone near the landline telephone
- Record a voice-memo such as "Mum, your phone is off the hook, please put your phone back & call David"
- Set this recording as the mobile phone's ringtone
- Turn the ring-tone volume to full, and hide the telephone near the landline
- When the landline is left off the hook, call the mobile phone and your message asking to replace the landline phone will play, as it's a ringtone it will play on loop
If you haven't got anywhere to hide the mobile phone near the landline (such as a drawer), then the phone can be left on the side.
- Try a wall-mounted corded telephone
- Use an amplified telephone & an effective "howler"
- Buy a device that plays an "off-the-hook" message
- Use an old mobile phone as a voice-reminder
We hope this blog helps some of you prevent or reduce this common symptom for people with dementia.
If you do have any of your own ideas, solutions, or general thoughts on this blog, please leave a comment below.