Published: October 28, 2020
Updated: October 28, 2020
This post reviews three popular cell phones for people with Dementia or Alzheimer’s. Individuals with memory loss have difficulty remembering phone numbers or names. Many of them don’t remember how to use a smartphone or even basic cell phone and home phone. Many buttons, options and screens can create confusion causing individuals with Alzheimer’s or Dementia to stop interacting with loved ones.
The RAZ Memory Cell Phone is the only cell phone specifically designed for individuals with dementia or Alzheimer’s. The phone’s basic approach is straightforward: make it as simple as possible for the user, while providing the caregiver the ability to control the more “complicated” features of the phone remotely through an online portal. The phone only supports calling.
The RAZ Memory Cell Phone is a smartphone with a 6.3-inch display, which provides a lot of real estate for contacts and their pictures. The large display also helps people with vision loss. It has a modern “tear-drop” design with minimal bezels. Nobody can tell from the design that phone is for individuals with memory loss, which means that users will not feel self-conscious that they have a “special” phone.
The display itself is very bright. It dims a little when it has not been used for 2 minutes in order to save battery power. Even in this dimmed state it can be seen easily by users. As soon as the user touches the dimmed display, it brightens.
At the top edge of the phone is a headphone jack. The RAZ Memory Cell Phone comes with some ear buds in the box. On the right edge is the power button and the volume rocker. On the left edge is the SIM card slot.
The battery is not removable or replaceable, which is typical of smartphones these days.
The RAZ Memory Cell Phone has one primary screen. The default setting is for the screen to accommodate up to six contacts, with contact pictures and names underneath. The pictures help individuals who cannot always remember the names of their contacts or who may have difficulty reading. For those individuals who require more than six contacts, there is an option to include up to twenty-four contacts. This option is controlled in the online portal discussed below. All of these contacts are presented with pictures and names underneath; the user scrolls vertically to locate the contact they wish to call. The caregiver controls the order in which the contacts appear. There is also a button to call 911, or the RAZ Emergency Service. The user does not have to enter the digits. To make calls, the user taps and holds the picture of the person they want to call. That’s it! There is no menu system, no apps, no ability access settings …etc.
The RAZ Memory Cell Phone focuses on creating the simplest possible environment. With this in mind, the volume button is disabled and is always set to maximum, and the screen does not even lock or go to “sleep”. The display is always on. There is also an option to disable the power button in case the user has difficulty turning the phone back on or has a habit of inadvertently going into Safe Mode. Here is a demonstration video of the RAZ Memory Cell Phone.
Normally a phone’s features are managed in device settings or in individual applications. In the case of the RAZ Memory Cell Phone, to maximize simplicity, the phone is managed through an easy-to-use online portal that can be accessed by the caregiver from anywhere in the world.
The portal allows the caregiver to add and edit contacts, including pictures. The caregiver can also use the portal to limit all incoming calls to those from contacts, preventing unwanted predatory calls from people who may take advantage of individuals with memory loss. The portal can further be used to make all calls go automatically to the speaker. Watch a video of the online portal.
The caregiver can also access the signal strength and remaining battery power of the phone. This way, if the caregiver cannot reach the user, she can go into the portal and see if it is because the phone is out of power or there is poor signal strength.
The purpose of the portal is to provide the caregiver with the ability fully to manage the RAZ Memory Cell Phone. The person with memory loss receives a phone that works with maximum simplicity. The user does not have access to settings; control is in the hands of the caregiver.
The RAZ Memory Cell Phone now includes an optional emergency service. The service is intended for cases where individuals with dementia imagine emergencies and call 911 repetitively. With this new service, emergency calls can be directed to an emergency dispatch agent rather than 911. The agent will know that the caller suffers from memory loss and will determine whether to contact 911 guided by this knowledge. Also, text messages will be sent to up to three (3) caregivers, providing these designated individuals the opportunity to cancel the emergency call, avoiding an unnecessary call to 911. The service costs either $79.99 annually or $7.99 per month with an activation fee of $19.99.
The phone costs $309.00 and works on GSM networks, such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Consumer Cellular, Mint Mobile or other compatible networks. It does not work on Sprint or Verizon. The phone is unlocked. In other words, the user can select his or her wireless provider. Currently, the phone comes with a free SIM card and three (3) free months of service from MINT Mobile. After the free months of service, MINT Mobile costs as low as $15/month for unlimited service. For more information click here or call 1-800-729-0083.
The KidsConnect KC2 Phone is designed for children. The company website describes the phone as a parent’s “All In One Security Solution”. Nevertheless, it is sometimes purchased for individuals with memory loss as a result of its simplicity.
The KidsConnect is the shape of a rectangle and is almost 4 inches long and 2.5 inches wide. It has a width of almost half an inch, so it is quite thick, but can easily fit into a pocket. The phone has a touch screen that takes up about a third of the front of the phone.
The user can call up to three (3) contacts with the physical speed dial buttons. There are no pictures, so the user must remember which contact is associated with each number. To place a call, the user must press and hold the speed dial button for three (3) seconds. An additional twelve (12) people can be contacted with the touch screen. To make calls with the touch screen, the user must tap “Phone” and then tap the number that they wish to call. Again, there are no pictures. Depending on the user’s level of dementia, navigating this menu system may or may not be possible. Watch a video to see the basic operation of KidsConnect.
The phone cannot dial 911, but it does have an SOS button that will call and send text messages to up to three numbers. The text message will say that an SOS has been triggered. The inability to call 911 may be a deal-breaker for some.
The phone offers GPS tracking and geo-fencing, which may be very useful features for finding a wandering senior with dementia. The phone also offers text messaging, a stopwatch and access to settings through the touchscreen menu system. These additional features add some complexity to the device and may be confusing to individuals with dementia.
Unlike with the RAZ Memory Cell Phone, the volume button is not locked down, so the user can inadvertently lower the volume without realizing it. Further, like many cell phones, the KidsConnect locks after a certain period of time. Some users may have difficulty unlocking the phone.
Like the RAZ Memory Cell Phone, contacts are managed through an online portal.
The cost of the KidsConnect phone on the KidsConnect website is $129.95. Wireless plans are purchased through the KidsConnect website and cost $45/month for unlimited service with T-Mobile coverage and $60/month for unlimited service with AT&T coverage.
The Jitterbug is a simple flip phone. It is designed for seniors generally, rather than specifically for people with dementia or Alzheimer’s.
As the name suggests, the Jitterbug Flip is a flip phone. When it is shut, it measures 4.3 by 2.2 inches and is .7 inches deep. It comes in red and graphite. On the left edge of the phone, close to the top, is a standard headphone input, and below it, a USB port. On the right side, near the top, is a button to activate a flashlight, and below this, the volume toggle. The power button is on the keypad itself. The battery is removeable.
The phone comes with a charging dock, which is definitely a bonus for seniors.
There are three ways to place a call: first, by dialing the number with the keypad.
Second, by placing calls from contacts. Third, by dialing by voice. The phone can be set up so that the user can dial by voice as soon as they open the flip phone. The user can initiate a call by speaking someone’s name if they are in the user’s contacts or by speaking the phone number.
None of these methods include pictures of contacts. Users must remember the number or name of the person they wish to call. Further, users can call any number without restriction, which will be problematic in the case of some users.
Unlike the RAZ Memory Phone or the KidsConnect KC2, incoming calls cannot be limited to contacts. Thus, if you are concerned about the user being taken advantage of by predatory telemarketers, the Jitterbug is probably not a good option.
Users can dial 911 in the event of an emergency. They must type in each digit individually.
The Jitterbug Flip is really all about the health services. It advertises itself as a “personal safety device.” The Basic health and safety package costs $19.99 (on top of the cost of your cell phone service), and most notably includes a private emergency dispatch service, as well as a service that sends medication reminders. There is also a Preferred package for $24.99 and an Ultimate package for $34.99. The Preferred package includes access to a board-certified doctor or nurse without an appointment. The Ultimate package includes a personal operator that can help the user with tasks, such as looking up addresses or phone numbers. These services are accessed by pressing the 5Star Button.
Watch a video of the Jitterbug in action.
The Jitterbug Flip supports other features, including text messaging, a camera, call history and a flashlight. There is no alarm or calendar.
Users can also make various adjustments in settings, such as colors, jingle on/off, ring tones and Bluetooth.
The Jitterbug is a simple basic mobile phone. Nevertheless, a user must be able to navigate the menu system in order to use it effectively. And there are no pictures to help the user remember contacts.
The price of the Jitterbug Flip is $99 on its website. People who purchase the Jitterbug Flip must use the GreatCall wireless service. Greatcall uses Verizon’s network, so coverage is very good. However, rate plans are not very competitive compared to other options. For example, unlimited talk and text is available for $39.99. Other wireless providers now offer unlimited talk and text in the twenty-dollar range.
As discussed above, the various health and safety features of the Jitterbug Flip cost additional; prices start at $19.99 per month. Users receive a discount on the talk and text if they also subscribe to a health and safety service.