How can dementia phones help people?

Phones can be challenging pieces of equipment for a person with dementia, but they can also be a lifeline. Here’s our pick of the best phones for someone with dementia.

Our Top Dementia Phones:

DORO MemoryPlus 319I PH
DORO 580 Secure 580 with GPS
Simple Landline Phone with automatic disconnect
Telephone with SOS Calling, Waterproof Pendant

How to find the right phone for you:

With so many phones to choose from it can be difficult knowing where to start, but if you want to buy a phone for someone with dementia/Alzheimer's, you should start by looking out for the following features:

Big buttons
Large, soft-touch buttons are useful as it makes it easier to see what numbers you're inputting.

2 worth trying:
Amplified Photo Telephone
DORO PhoneEasy Photo 331PH

Some photo phones provide only a few buttons, each with a space to slide in a photo of the person. This means the person with dementia only has to identify the picture of the person they want to contact and press that, rather than have to remember and input a long number.

2 worth trying:
DORO MemoryPlus 319I PH
Corded and Cordless Telephone Combi with Answering Machine

Alarm pendants
If you’re worried about the person you care about having a fall or an accident, and not being able to reach the telephone to call for help, then an alarm pendant that can be worn round their neck or wrist, and which is linked up to a phone, could be a solution.

2 worth trying:
Telephone with SOS Calling, Waterproof Pendant
Personal Alarm & GPS Tracker

Hearing aid compatible (HAC)
Dementia phones often have a louder ring and are hearing aid compatible. This means that the telephone speaker in the earpiece not only outputs the sound of the person you are talking to, but it also outputs a magnetic signal representing the sound. Hearing aids have a feature called a telecoil built into them, and this allows the hearing aid to pick up a magnetic signal representing an audio signal instead (or in addition to) just an audio signal. Using a hearing aid with a Hearing Aid Compatible telephone can dramatically improve your ability to hear on the telephone.

2 worth trying:
Amplified Photo Telephone
Wireless Amplified Telephone with Answering Machine

Visual ringer
If the person you care about refuses to wear a hearing aid (or frequently takes it out), some dementia phones also have a visual ring indicator, which is basically a light that starts to flash when the phone is ringing.

2 worth trying:
Telephone 90dB Ringer Amplifier and Flashing Light
Classic Amplified Telephone with SOS button

Simple mobiles
As well as landline telephones for people with dementia, you can also get simple mobile phones. They often have less buttons and a simpler design (much like the landline versions) but can be taken out and about by the person with dementia. They may also be made of harder-wearing materials so that if they drop the phone it won’t crack or break.

Worth trying:
DORO Secure 580 with GPS

Nuisance call blockers
These are a useful addition for someone with dementia who can be particularly vulnerable to scam callers and pushy sales people on the phone. They work by only allowing certain numbers to come through to the landline, and blocking any sales calls, market research calls, recorded message calls or silent calls.

2 worth trying:
CPR Call Blocker Protect +
CPR Call Blocker V5000

Top 5 problems with phones when you have dementia (and how to beat them)

Phones can become confusing and even frightening if you have dementia, here’s some of the most common challenges your loved one might face – and how to overcome them.

PROBLEM: Difficulty using phones
A complicated phone that has lots of buttons or options on it could be too overwhelming for someone with dementia. And because the condition can affect your ability to process or understand numbers, even inputting a phone number could become too tricky.

Try a Simple Landline Phone. This retro designed phone is simplicity itself. Just pick up the receiver and the phone will automatically dial your SOS contact (the person you’ve decided will be their main port of call). And if they forget to hang up, the call will be automatically terminated.

PROBLEM: Not recognising the voice of the caller
As dementia progresses, it can become more difficult to remember or recognise a familiar voice. Trying to convince the person you care about that you are their daughter/son, friend when you phone them, can become trickier – and very upsetting.

Phones which have photographs of loved ones, rather than just numbers, and large caller ID display screens can provide good memory prompt. Take a look at the Corded and Cordless Telephone Combi with Answering Machine.

PROBLEM: Not recognising the phone anymore
If you notice someone with dementia trying to pick up a remote control to answer a phone call, it could be time to swap their modern phone for a vintage style phone which they may feel more comfortable with. There are lots of retro phones to choose from so find one that’s really simple and brightly coloured.

Try the Trimline Retro Phone which offers good value for money at £16.66

PROBLEM: Dialling emergency services
This is more common than you might think. Sometimes people with dementia call 999 by accident or because it’s the only number they remember. Occasionally, they might call 999 if they’re feeling very distressed.

If 999 calls are only happening occasionally, try not to worry too much (or get angry with your loved one). Increasing numbers of emergency services operators are receiving training in dementia and may be able to recognise that it’s someone with the condition and know how to handle them. But if they’re dialling 999 quite a lot, try a Simple Landline Phone with automatic disconnect which will only allow them to phone the three numbers you have pre-programmed in.

PROBLEM: Calling randomly, often in the middle of the night
This can be a very difficult problem for family carers, who might receive dozens of calls a day(and at night) from their loved one with dementia. The person with dementia may be calling up because they’re stressed or worried, or simply because they’ve forgotten that they’ve already spoken to you.

This is a tough one because you can’t simply ignore their call – what if they really do need your help? But you also have to think about your own wellbeing because having your sleep continually interrupted can be emotionally and physically draining. Try getting yourself an answerphone that can screen calls, so if they leave a message, you’ll be able to tell if it’s important or not.

Need more information?

For more information on phone products to help someone with dementia, click here.