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Section 23
Making Time for Alzheimer's & Low-Functioning...
by Avoiding Wasting Time on the Phone

Table of Contents | NCCAP/NCTRC CE Booklet

How much time do you spend on the telephone each day?  Calls arranging activities?  Calls to volunteers?

Avoid telephone tag
•   Leave a complete message to avoid playing phone tag leave message that include
--the reason for your call and
--any specific information you need to cut down on wasteful back-and-forth phone tag.
 Here's an example: an Activity Director and church group leader kept exchanging “Call me back” messages. When they finally did connect, it turned out the church group leader just wanted to cancel their monthly Bible Study which could have been easily supplied in the first message. Does this sound like something that has happened to you?  If you have voicemail, record a message that indicates, for example, "This is Cathy in Activities.  Please leave a detailed message at the beep, repeating your phone number twice slowly."

If you have voice mail at your facility, write below a greeting that will encourage the caller to leave a detailed message.


•   When you are leaving a message that is “FYI” (for your information) only, in short just providing someone with information that does not require a reply, remember to add that “there’s no need for a callback.”  You might state, "…I am just confirming your group is conducting the Sing tomorrow at 2:00. If we are still on, no need to call back.  See you tomorrow at two."

Write below a list of people for whom you might leave an FYI message.  Then write a sample message stating a reply is not necessary.



•   Delegate as many calls as possible to an assistant, if appropriate.  Calls that are good to delegate to another Activity staff member would be routine calls where a standard procedure is followed, as in confirming the group mentioned above.  Also for example, if you have the local grocery prepare ahead some items residents have purchased, you might have your assistant get an updated shopping list from residents, call the grocery, and pick-up the items.

Write below what calls you would feel comfortable delegating.  Who could you delegate them to?


Seven Strategies to make calls short…
without creating hard feelings!

Strategy #1.     Opening lines: Avoid “How are you?” because they may tell you, and once they begin, it’s hard (and seems rude) to interrupt.  So what do you do?  After a “hello,” get right to the point: “Rosemary, I knew you’d be the only one who could answer these two questions for me.”  If you are the one being called, move the caller quickly to the point with, “And what can I do for you today?”

Strategy #2.     Time your calls strategically. Calls made right before lunch or near quitting time are less apt to turn into extended chitchat.

Strategy #3.     Set a phone “contract” with your caller.  This is similar to the Time Contract explained in the previous Section.  Here's how this works.  State, “Hi. Look, I’ve only got ten minutes, but I really wanted to get back to you.” Or alternatively: “Gee, I’d love to talk more with you about this, but I’ve only got five more minutes. Maybe we can connect later.” If your caller is persistent, gently remind them with: “That was a fast five minutes, but I’ve really got to go now.”

Strategy #4.     Here’s a desperate measure that’s bound to work.  When held up by a chatty caller, you might have prearranged with an Activity Staff member to say loudly, “Jane, did you forget about that meeting?” You reply, "Oh yeah, I have to go" and make your escape.

Strategy #5.     Stop the action: By "stop the action," I mean jump in at the first available pause. Try this at a breath point: “This has been great, Sue, thanks. We’ll pick this up at the meeting next week. I need to go.”

Strategy #6.     The frontal attack: You’ve been nice, you’ve been polite, but some people just won’t take a hint. Say firmly, “I wish I could talk to you longer, but I have some other commitments. I hope you don’t mind, but I need to go now.” Make the statement in a matter-of-fact voice, and then hang up as immediately as you feel you can "get by" without being rude.

Strategy #7.     To handle the chronic chatterer, you may have to limit tele­phone contact or avoid it altogether by substituting memos or E-mail for the telephone.  E-mail is a great way to get to the point fast and avoid getting hung up on the phone.  Also you have the benefit of a written record of your correspondence.

Select one of the "Seven Strategies to Make Calls Short " described above.  Write it below, along with an anticipated caller with whom you might implement this strategy.
Anticipated Caller:

How about getting yourself off the phone?  If you have a tendency to chatter…
•     … you might try this trick: Could you keep a three-minute egg timer on your desk at work?  Turn your egg timer over when your conversation starts.  Your goal is to have as many one-egg-timer conversations, of three-minutes or less, as possible without going over. Some calls, of course, legitimately lasted two egg-timers, or 6 minutes, but this method makes you more aware of how much time slips away as you chat on the phone. 
Worth a try? … to perhaps encourage some self-discipline on your part?  If so, make a “Contract with Myself” and circle YES below, or no if you feel the egg timer just won't work to curtail your chattiness.

Contract with Myself:  I will purchase an egg timer at a discount store to time my calls in an attempt to shorten my calls.      YES         NO

Cordless Phones are big time savers—Five things you can do while you’re on the phone
If you are lucky enough to have a cordless phone at work… here are some multi-tasking suggestions.
1.   Cut out the magazines pictures residents have torn-out for pictures for your Assessment Book. The Assessment Book is described in detail in Volume Four dealing with Motivational Approaches.
2.   Review tomorrow’s schedule on your calendar.
3.   Look through catalogs and mark with post-its the pages you’re interested in, or turn down the corner of the page.
4.   Put away items from the last activity.
5.   Straighten a shelf or sort a box of items as suggested in a pervious section of this Manual.
Keep a box near your phone to toss in the small tasks that are convenient to do while on the phone.

List below some projects you might keep handy by the phone to do while you are on the phone.


If you are not feeling highly motivated to implement any of the preceding ideas, think again!.  The Implementation of Culture Change requires cooperation from other departments.  You are requesting schedule changes, transporting, and doing activities.  In order to make these requests and provide training for other staff, the more professional and organized you present yourself, the more likely the other department heads, therapists, CNAs, etc. are to treat you with respect and take your Culture Change requests seriously.  Agree?  So I suggest you strongly consider rereading the preceding section more than once.  Sift through it to find the ideas you need to implement.

Forward to Section 24
Back to Section 22
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