Telephone/Answering Machine

By Ginny Silver-Koplo

My daughter, Pamela, 28 yrs old has Huntington's Disease and resides in Cardinal Cooke Nursing Home in New York City. One of the most difficult aspects of having a loved one in a nursing home is the feeling that you are leaving them alone with strangers. There are nurses, aides, and volunteers, but no one to give the warmth of a family member or close friend. Many patients in a Huntington's Unit cannot communicate and at this point Pam's communication is very, very poor. She is also unable to lift the telephone. Because of logistics, I can only visit Pam once a week.

I decided that if I cannot be with Pam at least she can hear my voice. I had a phone connected with an answering machine. She can hear the messages on the machine when I call her each day to tell her how much I love her. It also serves a practical purpose to tell her when I am coming or if I am detained. Other people also call her sometimes just to say hello. If you would like to call, her number is (212) 426-5515. Pam would like to hear from anyone who has the time..

NYNEX, the telephone company in New York City has a program called LifeLine. I am sure other parts of the country have similar programs. Anyone on Medicaid qualifies for it. The fee for setting up the phone connections and testing the outlets was about $200. Due to the reduction given with the LifeLine program, the cost was only $10. There is a reduction on the monthly service charge, too. The customer service representative suggested that I put blocks on the phone for long distance calls, * sixty-nine, and other features that could run up the bill. There are no fees for these blocks. Someone at the nursing home had the good idea to remove the telephone cord so the phone can only receive incoming messages. I think the name LifeLine is an excellent name for this program as it is truly a lifeline for someone who cannot communicate to hear from her loved ones.

I would also like to make another suggestion regarding nursing homes. If you are visiting a loved one in the Huntington's Unit of a nursing home, it would be nice if you would say hello to some of the other patients. Some of them rarely or never get visitors. A little hello and a small amount of attention goes a long way to brighten the life of someone whose life has been darkened by illness.

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Last updated: Dec. 4, 2010