Seeking advice on best approach to long distance calls to parent with dementia

Buzz_in_NZ

Registered User
Feb 7, 2016
3
New Zealand
Hi

New to Talking Point but ten years into a long distance relationship with my Dad who has vascular dementia, which seems to have worsened recently.

I live in New Zealand (and have done so for ten years) and my Dad lives in England. Quite simply, I would be grateful for any guidance or advice on how to have loving, caring and meaningful telephone conversations with my Dad. On the last call, he struggled and failed to recognise me, referring to me in the third person and saying how nice it was that I could call when 'he' (i.e. me) didn't do so.

I am booked to travel to the UK in August but I am looking for ways to keep in contact and keep talking (without distressing him) until then.

A little more info for context:

He is still living at home on his own, with excellent local support from several organisations, friends and neighbours. I have a sister who lives in Europe who has enduring PoA and manages his financial arrangements, with the assistance of friends in the UK.

In the last year or so, our calls have had a fairly standard format of pleasantries, talking about the weather, reminding him of previous conversations, detailing the activities of family members and promising to send a letter with the same info and pictures. This last I do periodically but he rarely recalls them and they are often found unopened and buried under other mail/papers.

His memory and anxiety have worsened recently (repeated calls to 999 leading to brief hospitalisations and then return home). We have adjusted support and care plans accordingly but I suspect that, with maximum support for independent living already in place, a move to an assisted living facility may be necessary in the near future.

Many thanks
 

fizzie

Registered User
Jul 20, 2011
2,732
Some people have found skype a useful way of keeping in contact because it gives such a complete picture with lots of prompts. In your case your Pa would need someone to help him set it up, perhaps a kind neighbour would try it with him on their computer to see if it works - different things work well for different people but might be worth a try x
 

Buzz_in_NZ

Registered User
Feb 7, 2016
3
New Zealand
Some people have found skype a useful way of keeping in contact because it gives such a complete picture with lots of prompts. In your case your Pa would need someone to help him set it up, perhaps a kind neighbour would try it with him on their computer to see if it works - different things work well for different people but might be worth a try x
Hi Fizzie,

Thanks for your quick response. We have tried this a couple of times but it proved too difficult. This is why I'm keen to hear of any successful strategies for having meaningful phone calls. I read recently (I think it was in an interview with Christopher Eccleston) about approaching the calls from the point of view of a friend, rather than trying to convince him I'm his son.

Cheers
 

Kevinl

Registered User
Aug 24, 2013
4,774
Salford
Hi Buzz, welcome to TP
My brother lived in NZ for many years and I suppose still does in a way but 6 feet under it, however, I still have a sister in law and a niece there.
My wife has AZ and our 3 children find it very difficult to have any sort of meaningful phone conversation with her now, indeed face to face isn't that easy either.
As suggested if someone could set up Skype for him and hope that seeing your face may help him understand who you are rather than a disembodied voice but it does sound like he may be past that stage.
I think you may have to settle for him always knowing who you are in his heart even if his head is beginning to forget.
K
 

Buzz_in_NZ

Registered User
Feb 7, 2016
3
New Zealand
Hi Buzz, welcome to TP
My brother lived in NZ for many years and I suppose still does in a way but 6 feet under it, however, I still have a sister in law and a niece there.
My wife has AZ and our 3 children find it very difficult to have any sort of meaningful phone conversation with her now, indeed face to face isn't that easy either.
As suggested if someone could set up Skype for him and hope that seeing your face may help him understand who you are rather than a disembodied voice but it does sound like he may be past that stage.
I think you may have to settle for him always knowing who you are in his heart even if his head is beginning to forget.
K
K

I appreciate your response and, sadly, I think you may well be right. In some ways, being 12,000 miles away means that I don't face this daily. I know he knows/knew we left to give our kids more opportunities and we offered to bring him out to live with us but, like many who emigrate I'm sure, it does make me feel guilty for not being there.

Cheers

B