Yesterday morning my senior mom and I didn’t get our newspaper. A few minutes later, lost in the myriad of “press this number,” and “add pound to that number,” I was finally answered by someone I barely understood. Apparently our local newspaper, bleeding red ink, has outsourced its customer service. I was frustrated because I was trying to do two things at once, not very successfully, and wound up having to call them three times to get all the way through the number chain, only to be diverted to a real person as it apparently didn’t recognize apartment numbers.
Once there, I asked the hard-to-understand representative what options were available for aging parents who could easily bog down in this phone service, and never get their paper! She just kept saying to call the same number I had just called. I asked three times, got the same answer three times, with no elaboration or explanation.
After I hung up, a dim light bulb went off and I had one of those “ah ha” moments. I called back to the same number and then proceeded to do nothing. Sure enough, after waiting through a couple of irritating messages, it finally said, “We are having difficulty understanding you. Please hold while we transfer you to an operator.” Eureka! Now I could turn around and easily explain to my senior mom that if a paper didn’t show up and she was unable to get me, she could just call the number for the newspaper (that I am going to add to her emergency contact phone list) and do NOTHING until she gets a real life person. She may still have difficulty understanding them, but all she has to do is say she needs a paper and give her name, address, and phone number, so she should be fine.
The one problem with this plan is that it probably won’t work for all phone systems. So, I have now learned something else new to share with you as well. Anytime you are providing senior home care for an aging relative, whether they live close or far away, make a phone list of the basic providers they rely on – newspaper, cable, utility companies, phone company, and rental office. In addition, call each one and find out ahead of time what is the simplest way to get a real person. Add that information to the contact sheet. Your aging parents will appreciate you and that list so much in the years to come, along with the extra measure of independence you have blessed them with! And you will appreciate one less hassle in their, and your, life. 🙂
One extra tip to help us all in this endeavor. Get Human is a website that provides tips, helps and numbers to get you directly to a human in the fastest possible way for over 1000 companies, located in the US and in many other countries. Very handy for us, though a bit difficult for our aging parents to navigate. Combine their info with our own research, type it all up nice and pretty for our parents, and our job is made much easier with their help. Another win-win for the Sandwich Generation and their elderly parents!