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How to Screen Out Crooked Callers

crankcallsI often get asked how to stop the pesky telemarketing calls in my job as a daily money manager. Most of us have all put our names on the National Do Not Call Registry, but the people calling aren’t typically playing by the rules. After you register, other types of organizations may still call you, such as charities, political groups, debt collectors and surveys. If you continue to get calls after being on the list for 31 days, you can report them to the FTC here.

Unfortunately, for seniors, the biggest complaint is about the number of charities that are calling. They are exempted from the National Do Not Call Registry. If you have asked that they remove you from their call list, and they continue to call, here are a few things you can do to help stop nuisance calls:

  1. Sign up for a automated service for your landline to block calls. Nomorobo is free service I can get from my local carrier, Verizon. The Nomorobo website can help you find out if you can get their free service in your area. I implemented it at home and it has made a big difference. When we moved in 17 years ago, we opted for the unlisted number–that USED to work at keeping callers at bay. 
  2. If you can’t get a service like Nomorobo, you can purchase a call blocking device like Sentry 2 that lets you blacklist numbers. It does require that you tag calls to the “blacklist” to block, and you can also add numbers and only get calls from those on your “whitelist”. It can fill the need but does require assistance to be effective.
  3. Don’t answer the phone if you don’t recognize the number. When you answer, they know they have a valid number. Asking to be removed, or selecting the dial option they offer typically won’t yield a positive results.
  4. Sign up for “Anonymous Call Rejection” with your local carrier. It will reject calls from anyone that has blocked their caller ID information. It is usually something you can enable using *77 but varies by provider.


When I was in elementary school, we were getting calls at home that were personally threatening. This was in the 70’s before all the other technology options and rules existed. My parent’s put whistles by the phones, and I was told to blow it in the phone should I answer and find the person on the other end of phone is threatening me. I haven’t instituted this in my own home, but wonder if the calls would stop more quickly if we all choose the whistle option. Mischievously Wondered. 

 ** I will follow-up on what you can do if you are being pestered on your cell-phone. 


Three Common Senior Scams

checkbookI found that my parent’s were writing checks to charities on a regular basis, which was a new habit. When I realized that I didn’t recognize many of them, and then saw the amount of mail coming in doubling, the alarm bells went off.

I work with a variety of seniors. Most still live at home, have children who don’t live in the area, and need some simple help keeping track of cash flow and their bill payments. I was recently interviewed for a story on the three common senior scams and hope that you will find some tips on help to help your loved ones avoid becoming a victim to the hideous people hoping to separate them from their savings. Referred.

Be on Guard: 3 Common Senior Scams by Amy Fontinelle


Strokes and Dementia

strokeI recall the many visits to the neurologist with my mom after her stroke. We learned this was her second stroke. The doctor guessed the first one happened over a decade before but went un-reported or un-diagnosed. The second stroke began with dizziness and after watching my mom try to walk, my dad drove her right to the emergency room. The second stroke left no physical reminders, but there was a noticeable difference to my mom’s memory and how she processed information. They told me she had an ischemic stroke.

Over the six-months of visits, we really focused on understanding the cause and how to prevent a future stroke. The doctor never explained how the stroke might impact her ability to drive, manage her finances, or retain information. She also never mentioned that based on my mom’s behavior, that she probably had Vascular Dementia.

When I was talking with a client last week, he stopped me to ask why I used the term “vascular dementia” to describe his partner. She had a stroke and when I spoke with her, she had trouble getting out her words and he admitted that she had had trouble with her short-term memory. I’m not a doctor, but I shared that she seemed to present like my mom did after her stroke.

The interaction reminded me just how difficult it was to get my mom and dad diagnosed. The first neurologist for both of them never even used the term “mild cognitive impairment”, although to me and my siblings, we all recognized something was different in their behavior and thinking. Had we had an earlier diagnosis, maybe we could have developed a better plan of care to have them live with purpose and meaning for the rest of their lives.

I hope if your loved one has had a stroke, you might have more information to understand the impact and how it might shape the coming years. Every one is different, but I worry that the move to shorter medical appointments will make it even harder for the next wave of caregivers to come. Wondered.


My Ten Big Dementia Don’ts

BestBlogs2017I started this blog to help me deal with all of the changes I was seeing in my parent’s and feeling helpless. Over five years I learned quite a bit, and have poured it into Dealing with Dementia in hopes of making this journey a little easier on the next family.

I’m honored to again be name one of the Best Blogs of the Year. To celebrate, I’m recapping my Top Ten Dementia Don’ts.

I wrote these when my mom was living in an assisted living community dedicated to memory care. Some really only come into play in the later stages, but could really just be general life rules if you ask me!

10. Don’t assume because they can’t tell you, that your words or actions don’t hurt their feelings.

9. Don’t assume they can’t answer for themselves.

8. Don’t blame them for the changes in their behavior.

7. Don’t remind them of a death of a loved one or pet.

6. Don’t talk about someone with dementia in front of them like they don’t exist.

5. Don’t think they can’t communicate just because they don’t speak.

4. Don’t assume they can’t understand you because they are silent.

3. Don’t correct or challenge trivial things.

2. Don’t say “Remember when … “

1. Don’t tell someone diagnosed with dementia they are wrong.

What are some of yours?










Be Mindful of Remaining a Spouse/Daughter/Son

transportchairI was asked to participate in a panel discussion called “Help Mom & Dad Make All the Right Moves” with a doctor who serves the senior community, and a life care manager. In the closing segment, we were asked to share one piece of advice for a fellow son or daughter about our caregiving journey. The doctor, Steven Simmons shared that you need to remember to be the son or daughter. He went on to share how difficult it is for him to not be the doctor and how he just faced a crisis with his mom and worked really hard to be the son not the M.D. He said he worked quickly to bring in another doctor so he could be the son.

I was shaking my head in agreement as he spoke. I have shared this with the professionals that did come in to help me through pivotal moments. I have confessed to them that looking back, I wished I used them more. I wanted to help and so many of the things seemed simple, but one of my biggest regrets is not having a life care manager manage all of my mom’s medical needs.

The last year of my mom’s life she was in and out of hospice care … the palliative kind … which is now very common to help older adults live comfortably for issues that medical interventions can’t cure. So we had a hospice doctor that would visit her in the community. However, there was also a community doctor, and some minor issues, seemed to keep getting lost between the two doctors. Every month, I was spending several hours trying to chase down these minor health care issues which took away time from visiting my mom. I was at her community, but not even in the presence of my mom. Over the course of the year, maybe it would have cost a few thousand to have someone else take her out for the medical follow-ups, chase down and get answers to the minor issues that needed resolution. Mom had the means to pay for it, and I should have used it so I could have been the daughter.

Yes, a son or daughter should be counted on to do those things. However, I am still raising kids, running a business, and was trying to lead a life too. Now that mom is gone, I wish I had a do-over and instead spent the time with her, not on managing her care needs.

While an aging life care manager does have an hourly rate between $135 – $185, they can resolve issues quickly. There were so many things I learned on my journey, but, at the end of the day, I might have better served me and my mom if I brought in someone to handle certain aspects of her care.

At the time, I made the best decision I could with the information I had. Reviewed. 




Navigating the Early Stages of Dementia


I wanted to get my mom a red purse thinking it would be easier to find. 

I feel that the early phases of dementia bring some of the hardest things to navigate. Things get lost, misplaced, or hidden really well, and it can be incredibly frustrating as well as humiliating to the person who is missing their phone, keys, purse, or wallet.

With no short-term memory, it’s hard to rely on what the person says about the last place they had the item. It’s also human nature to get a little defensive when someone is grilling you about where you left your wallet. It’s best to take a breath and tread lightly. The person that lost the item and can’t find it is already in distress, and I know from experience, looking for it over hours can be maddening.

Some ideas to help:

  1. Get the Tile (or TrackR or other GPS device) you can store in the wallet, purse, put on the keychain or attach to a phone.  You can put an app on your smart phone to find it.
  2. Make sure you have color copies of their identification so you have account or record numbers should you need an ID replacement.
    • Cancel the credit cards and checking account. A growing number of seniors are having fake checks drawn on their checking account after a purse or wallet has gone missing (even to show up later, they already have your routing and account number).
      • Only carry a check register with a little money in the account.
      • Do not use Debit Cards that immediately draw money from your checking account but use a prepaid credit card, or set up an account with a low credit line to minimize exposure.
    • In most states, you can log in to their DMV account and reorder a replacement drivers license.
    • Keep other forms of valid photo identification active. For instance, should you lose your driver’s license, having a valid Passport can act as a backup form of photo identification.
    • Contact the issuing agency. For those of you with a military ID, you may find the local base can help you navigate the loss of the ID.
  3. Get a safe with a digital keypad for safe keeping. For a family friend who has children that visit, I mentioned they might want to consider storing the important IDs in the safe and the siblings can easily get into it if they share the safe passcode should they need to help mom replace a lost ID again. They did have one with a key, but mom couldn’t find they key.

I don’t really understand the reason behind the behavior to hide things, but I know that I’ve seen it in too many clients.

What have you done that has been successful?

If you haven’t already, I hope you take the time to get the important documents, account details, and assets organized so you can minimize any further loss or misplacement. You can download a free copy covering what to save and what you should shred. The hiding habit usually includes a hoarding habit. Magazines and mail start to pile up … so I hope this will help you sort through the piles you might be also facing. Revisited. 

Here are a few of the stories from my journey:

Where is my Gold Necklace?

Where are you?

Where are my car keys?



Decisional Capacity and Short Term Memory Loss

simple choiceI’m working with two older adults who have seemingly lost their short term memory and are unable to manage their calendars. They haven’t been diagnosed with anything more than mild cognitive impairment but since their kids aren’t local, I have been hired to help pay bills and manage the cash flow. What I keenly recognize is that they have the ability to make reasonable choices that align with former saving and spending philosophies, but they have just lost the ability to do simple tasks like manage or recall who they have paid and balance the checkbook.

As an adult child, knowing my parents could not manage simple tasks had me and my siblings petrified that they would become victims of fraud and scams. We intervened at different times on their behalf to turn back on the water, cancel a second predatory contract for some home repairs, and even close down extra accounts they just weren’t using any longer. However, now that I’m stepping in as a Daily Money Manager to help older adults manage their bill payments, cash flow, and general finances, I also recognize how valuable keeping them involved in the process is to their self-esteem.

While it’s much faster to just take something away and do it yourself, going through the mail, prioritizing and making bill payments together, allows the individual to retain the sense of independence that is lost when the checkbook gets “taken away.” By the time my mom turned over the checkbook to me, paying bills just caused her panic since she had lost her ability to understand the value of money and didn’t recognize that they could afford for the escalating costs of her care.

I hope if you are in the early stages of cognitive issues with a loved one that you can recognize that being able to make a decision and be involved is vital to the sense of meaning and purpose to the person you are helping. Keep it simple, and keep them involved as long as you can. Appreciated. 

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