Seniors and Cell Phones

Kathy Eynon, Eldercare, Elder CareWho knew that getting my mother her own cell phone plan would be such a difficult task!  What three of us thought would be a relatively simple and painless task, turned into quite an event.

Years ago, when my father was still living, Mom expressed an interest in having a cell phone.  She had experienced a few unsettling episodes while she was out and about by herself and felt that this would give her a measure of safety and security.  The 3 kids, and our spouses, all agreed that this would be a small piece of insurance and would provide her with a little piece of mind.

In those days, my father was still very much in control of many of the decisions that were made regarding their lives, which is as it should be, and was strongly opposed to taking on a cell phone plan.  He could not see the benefits and felt that it was an expense that they did not need to incur.  Oddly, maybe due to his early stage dementia, he seemed unable to see the benefits that it would provide to my mother at the time.

So, of course, as I often say caregivers have to do, we found the back-door-in solution.  For my mother’s birthday that year, she got a cell phone from her children.  My sister added a line to their cell phone plan, we all paid a third of the yearly expenses, and Mom was up and running.

And while Dad had been so strongly against the idea of a cell phone, he began to use it for all of their long distance calling on the weekends when it was ‘Free’.  Oh, the irony!

Since my father has passed away, the idea that the kids needed to continue to pay for Mom’s cell phone plan has been revisited.  She is currently on my plan, but I rarely remembered to ask my siblings for ‘their share’ of the costs.  Mom thought it would be best at this point to have her own plan.

So, my brother, my husband, Mom and I set off for the mall on Saturday afternoon to do the ‘simple’ task of making the change.

We had looked at the Jitterbug due to its simplicity:  No contract, basic phone and options for how many minutes to purchase each month.  After all, a smart phone is not what Mom needed.  When we arrived at Sears, who carries the Jitterbug, there was another option to be considered (Consumer Cellular).  Both had similar options and pricing.  But, the store does not complete the activation process.  They claimed that it was simple and the Mom could still keep her cell number.

My brother felt that it was worth a call to the 800 number on the back of the box to confirm this detail.  The 800 number did not seem to be operational.  It seemed a sign for us to walk away from this option.

So, how about just moving Mom off of our Verizon plan onto her own?

This required a LONG walk to the other end of the mall, which is difficult for my mother, only to discover that they can only make those changes Monday-Friday.  What???  Are you kidding me?

So, Mom now has a new upgraded phone (her old phone had to be 5 years old or more) and is still on my cell plan.  The decision, in light of all of the challenges we encountered, was to keep her on our plan and have her pay us for her cell service on a yearly basis.  She came out feeling satisfied that she is covering her own phone costs, has a new (basic) phone that she can navigate, and we will likely never revisit those other options!

A cell phone can provide great security to seniors, especially those that live alone or go out and about on their own.  As I mentioned before, we considered it cheap insurance for Mom.  Don’t try to overwhelm them with smart phone technologies; a basic phone is usually all that they need and want.  Keep it simple.

Mom was exhausted.  But, it was likely the last time that we will need to drag her through that issue.  Nothing is ever simple, is it?

On the journey with you…….Kathy

Kathy Eynon is an Eldercare Coach and Consultant who works with those struggling to cope with the demands of caring for an aging parent.  She can be reached by email at: Kathy@ParentCareAlliance.com.

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2 responses to “Seniors and Cell Phones

  1. Just make sure she keeps it handy. My elderly uncle keeps his in the trunk. Ha!

    • We finally convinced her that keeping it on her body was really part of the reason for having it (while she was still living alone especially). For a long time we could not get her to keep it turned on so we could not call her on that phone (which had no long distance charge associated with it!). She is learning!

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