Getting a cell phone for your loved one with dementia can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, having a cell phone can bring peace of mind for you and your loved one, knowing you have a direct line of communication. However, as dementia progresses, your loved one may struggle with the phone’s functionality or recognizing the names in their contacts.
Cell phones are a powerful tool for connection in everyone’s life, and those with mild to moderate dementia can also enjoy their benefits. Your loved one needs a simple and safe phone with special features to protect them from telemarketers trying to take advantage of them, and to help avoid confusion over technology.
Phones Dedicated to People with Dementia Are Important
Dementia can range from mild cognitive decline to the most common form, Alzheimer’s. It can disrupt your loved one’s ability to manage everyday life in areas such as:
No matter how mild or advanced your loved one’s dementia becomes, they need social bonds to thrive. In fact, social isolation and loneliness can have negative impacts on health, including cognitive function. A cellphone can be a powerful tool to connect with siblings, children, grandchildren, and friends, no matter where they are. But older adults have different cellphone needs.
Those with dementia are particularly vulnerable to telephone scams, so families can be wary of their loved one having a cell phone. However, cell phones can help your loved one in the early stages of dementia remember the date, family phone numbers, important dates, or other information.
As dementia progresses, switching to a new phone with specific features can be better than removing the phone entirely.
How to Choose the Best Phone for Seniors with Dementia
Your loved one with dementia won’t need the newest smartphone, but there are some features to look for when selecting their best phone.
Perhaps calling and text messages are all your loved one needs. Most cell phones for people with dementia have simple volume control, on/off buttons, and no settings application to get lost in.
The more intuitive the phone’s design, the more user-friendly it can be as the stages of dementia advance.
Initiating calls and text messages with voice activation can make using the phone more accessible, especially for seniors with diminishing dexterity. Choosing a phone with Google, Alexa, or other software integrations that allow voice activation can also help loved ones make verbal notes or reminders.
Many seniors see the benefits of voice-assisted technology; however, speech-based technology isn’t perfect. For those with difficulty speaking, voice-activated technology may not understand or misunderstand verbal commands.
Maintaining simplicity is essential in the home screen. Large letters and bright screens simplify the experience for even the most tech-resistant adult. Simple, one-screen designs tend to work well for those with dementia. Ideas for what should be featured on the home screen include:
- Photos of people with their names for easy contact access
- A prominent emergency button
- Battery life and time indicators
A primary worry for families with aging loved ones is phone safety. Protecting your loved one for scam callers looking to prey on older adults is a high priority. Many phones allow calls to be blocked unless they come from specific contacts, like “Do Not Disturb” functions.
An easily accessible SOS function can help if your loved one is out and about and needs emergency assistance or if they have an accident or fall at home.
Other elements to consider when purchasing your loved one’s cellphone can include:
- Hearing aid compatibility or speaker strength
- Camera or video call capabilities
- Remote monitoring for peace of mind
- Internet capabilities, if required
Every older adult is different, and more tech-savvy seniors may want access to social media, games, or internet browsing. You and your loved one can navigate their needs and abilities as dementia or cognitive decline progresses.
Discover Social Connection at Sommerset Neighborhood
Life with dementia doesn’t have to be lonely or isolating for your loved one. Memory care at Sommerset Neighborhood is here to provide a safe environment where your loved one can thrive with personalized care and social connection.
Schedule a visit to our community and learn about our supportive care in assisted living or memory care.