Lonesome,Talkative Aging Parents: Phone Calls

To age well, connections to others are very important.
We know that, yet we can feel like we’re talked
to death; and that’s not good.

PROBLEM: Phoning an aging parent who talks and talks and talks can seem like punishment.

This may not matter as much, when we have nothing better to do with our time. Yet when adult children are frazzled and stressed or they’re just plain tired, there’s help.

First, identify which aging parents are most likely to be too talkative.
1.  Those have hearing problems and talk and talk because that’s easier than not hearing and understanding what is coming through the ear-piece.
2.  Those who are lonesome.
3.  Those who may not have talked with anyone all day.

Many of us mentally plan a phone call to aging parents into our daily routine no matter what….to bring fresh ideas, news, stimulation, or to check that they’re alright, or let them know we’re thinking about them and/or we care. Sometimes the timing is just plain bad– Their need to talk, trumps everything and we listen and we yawn.

Admittedly I fell asleep once, sitting too comfortably in a chair while being too tired, but dutifully phoning a living-alone 89-year-old. The older person on the other end of the line began a monologue and kept moving from one topic to another, barely coming up for air in between subjects. I couldn’t get a word in. The next thing I knew I was jolted from my short slumber–hearing “Susan, are you still there.” to which I quickly lied “of course.” (The truth would have been such an insult.) How embarrassing!


  • Partial solution–A phone with technology for hard-of-hearing users; or a hearing evaluation leading to purchasing– or wearing– hearing aids.
  • A well-charged, cordless phone, a headset to plug into the phone, a medium-or larger deep pants pocket or small shoulder purse, and a reasonable calling plan for adult children.

Last month my friend, Monique, told me she phones her 88-year-old mother in France at least every other day and they talk a long time. Mentioning how she got all the laundry done, worked and weeded in her garden, etc. etc. while talking to her mother, I was curious. Upon questioning, she said she went to Best Buy, bought a headset that plugs into that little hole (under the flap with a tiny raised headset logo) on today’s cordless phones, dials the number, then–with earphones adjusted–settles the phone into a pocket or a little shoulder purse and simultaneously talks with her mother and does her work.

When a phone call is impossible, try a fax–assuming parents have a fax machine. It conveys you’re thinking about them, but omits conversation. Or–at the beginning of the phone conversation–structure and control the call with something like “I only have two minutes but want to say hello and let you know….”

Staying connected–one of the three most important factors in helping parents age well; but one we should be able to handle well.

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