The phone rang mid-session with Velma. Knowing the frail 87-year-old was fiercely independent, I refrained from handing her the telephone, and watched as she slowly wheeled herself toward her side table.
She was halfway there.
She reached out with an unsteady arm. The phone wobbled in her grasp as she held it up to her ear.
"Hello?" She was silent for a moment, then scowled and slammed the phone onto the receiver.
"Who was that?" I asked, surprised by her sudden anger.
"I don't know! It's some machine! They keep bothering me. Want me to buy car insurance or some such nonsense. I haven't owned a car in years!"
"You're getting phone solicitations. That used to happen to me until I registered my phone with the National Do Not Call Registry. If you give me your phone number, I can sign you up too."
"But I don't know my phone number. I think I wrote it down somewhere." She looked toward the stack of papers piled on her tray table.
"That's okay," I reassured her, "I'll get it." I called my mobile from her landline, capturing her number in my display, then dialed the toll-free registration number. One minute later, the process was complete. "There! We're done. It'll take about four weeks, but those calls will stop."
Velma looked at me like I'd just worked a miracle.
"Really, it was nothing," I told her, but one less annoyance for Velma meant a great deal.
Sign up your residents with the National Do Not Call Registry: 1-888-382-1222
Dr. Barbera is an author and a licensed psychologist consulting in long-term care facilities in the New York City area. She frequently lectures on subjects related to psychology, aging, and nursing homes. Dr. Barbera is available for private consulting with organizations, institutions, and individuals around eldercare issues. Visit her personal blog at www.mybetternursinghome.blogspot.com.