Conference Calling-an Aid To Caring For Aging Parents

The Challenge of Long Distance Care

Whether you need coordinate health and legal services for your parents or need to hold a family conference, teleconferencing helps you stay more connected, be more effective and be more responsive with family and loved ones. A crisis that might take on major proportions can be handled quickly because you can bring together all the resources you need – wide-spread family members, doctors, care givers, lawyers (to name a few) – from across town or across the country.

My mother and her husband moved to the West Coast of Florida, far from my sisters and me who live on both coasts of the US. When my mother’s health deteriorated, my dilemma was how to effectively monitor and coordinate her care and financial matters from 1,500 miles away.

At the time, I lived on conference calls at the office and thought they might work for our family. I engaged a local geriatric care manager, who visited my mother on a regular basis and coordinated doctors, the pharmacist, in-home and other care givers. I set up monthly conference calls with the manager to keep my sisters and my step father’s family updated on health issues. Everyone could hear the same thing at the same time, ask questions, voice opinions and participate in decisions. Twice we coordinated out-of-town evacuations in one hurricane season!

Successful teleconferencing takes some planning and the following tips can help you through what can be an emotional time.

Engage a Reliable Teleconferencing Service

Arrange services with a conference calling company that provides high-quality, reliable audio conferencing service, security for your calls and 24/7 technical support. This avoids call disconnection, static on the line, and frustrated call participants.

Look for a service that provides dedicated toll-free and toll dial-in numbers, secure moderator and participant passcodes and simple touch-tone conference call controls (e.g. muting, volume controls, and operator assistance). In case you need to add someone who isn’t on the call (such as a doctor or attorney) it is also useful to have the ability to dial-out during the call and add that extra person on.

Plan Your Call

Invite all of the people who are involved with the issue at hand, especially those who need to participate in decisions or help carry them out. These might include relatives, friends, professional care givers, financial advisors, and doctors. Typical topics might include:

Care coordination

Health and safety concerns

Sharing responsibilities among adult children


Weather-related & other emergencies (hurricanes, tornados, power outages, etc.)

Provide everyone the date, time and anticipated length of the call. Let participants know what subjects you want to cover. It is a good idea for key people (usually family members) to have a say in setting the agenda. Send out any written documents your callers will need ahead of time (e.g. health care directives, other legal documents, doctor’s reports, etc.). Give your participants with the dial-in numbers and participant passcodes.

Manage Your Call

The call host should dial-in 5 minutes prior to the call as a courtesy. In many services, participants will hear music-on-hold until the host joins the conference, a security feature that prevents unauthorized use of your conference call.

If needed, record the conference call – a standard feature with many conference calling service providers. This might be used for allowing someone who could not join the call to listen at a later time. If call recording is used, your service provider should have an announcement to participants that the call is being recorded.

When you start the call, let everyone know who is on the call and review the items you are going to cover. Ask participants to mute phones when not speaking and to avoid creating background noise such as rustling papers or side conversations. Cell phones can create noise on the line and may need to be muted when the cell phone user is not speaking. If a cell or cordless phone is near a microwave, this can cause static and the caller will need to move away from the microwave.