Cheap in-state long-distance?
February 22, 2011 9:06 AM   Subscribe

Cut-rate, in-state long-distance, sans internet?

What legitimate options are there for someone needing low-cost in-state long-distance if they don't have an internet connection for VOIP services?

My mother has gotten into the habit of calling us multiple times a day, every day, all through the week (Alzheimers...can't find stuff, calls to tell us the same thing over and over, etc.) We're only 60 miles apart, but in different area codes, so it's long distance. The upshot of this, of course, is that her phone bill can go through the roof, especially if she goes on a real tear of calling. And then she calls us to complain about her phone bill...

Of course, there are long-distance services for out-of-state calls, but I've not been able to find anything for in-state calls. Or, at least nothing that doesn't look highly scam-ish.

She doesn't have an internet connection, so VOIP is out.

We've thought about putting her on our cellular plan but, given her mental state, something new like that would probably only confuse her. She has a bad habit of hiding stuff around the house and forgetting them, so the cell phone would probably last a week at most before it went missing. It's not entirely off the table, but definitely problematic.

This is in Indiana, if that makes a difference.
posted by Thorzdad to Grab Bag (9 answers total)
Best answer: Can you get a VOIP number for yourself in her local calling area and forward it to your real phone? She dials a local number and it connects to you. Google Voice can probably do this for free.
posted by ChrisHartley at 9:13 AM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

How about a cell phone that hooks into a regular "home phone" like this. That way, she still just uses the same type of home phone as before, but then she'll have unlimited in network or friend&family or whatever minutes to call you with?
posted by Grither at 9:15 AM on February 22, 2011

ChrisHartley gives a great suggestion. Also, check into her phone provider -- many providers have unlimited long distance as part of their packages, especially if it's a digital (not VOIP) plan.
posted by proj at 9:15 AM on February 22, 2011

Response by poster: Chris, that's a great idea! I'd forgotten all about GV.

I'll have to check and see if Mom uses a pre-set on her phone to call us (easy to re-set to the GV number, and invisible to her) or if she hand-dials our number every time. Very likely, she would never get used to dialing a new number, or using a pre-set. Alzheimer's sufferers rely heavily on long-term, ingrained habits. New habits, no matter how simple they may seem to us, can take months to learn, if they're ever learned at all.
posted by Thorzdad at 9:45 AM on February 22, 2011

My FIL used pre-sets to call around when his Alzheimer's was getting worse. He was calling for help, though: a ride "home," a stranger in the house (his caretaker), he didn't know where he was and he thought he was in trouble of some kind, and so on. The pre-set for 911 was deleted at that point, out of a worry that he would call 911 and claim he was being held against his will.

Eventually the phone with the presets, in the location he always talked on the phone, was removed and he stopped making calls. There was still a phone in the room, multiple phones easily accessible around the house, but once that one particular phone was gone he stopped. He didn't really seem to miss it once it was no longer in its accustomed spot, and he stopped making phone calls. It was necessary in his case; it sounds like your mother isn't to that point.

Notes around the house never seemed to help much, but if you want to try getting her to dial new numbers, it *might* help to write them clearly and visibly right next to the phone, or even on the phone. I wonder if there'd be a way to keep her from dialing the old number--change it, or block it, so she has to go looking for the new number to dial (and then find it right next to the phone). It'd be tough if it didn't work, though, and she just thought you'd changed your number and she didn't HAVE it.

Good luck.
posted by galadriel at 10:31 AM on February 22, 2011

Response by poster: So, I set-up a GV number in my mom's area code and have it forwarded to my home number. So far, so good. Now, we'll just see if she can get used to dialing the new number.
posted by Thorzdad at 2:53 PM on February 22, 2011

If your mom is not able to transition to dialing the new number and you are willing to invest some time in implementing an exceptionally clever system you can get a device like the $65 Linksys Sipura-3102. You can plug your mom's analog phone in one port and the phone company's line in the other port and write a dialplan so whenever she dials your long-distance number on her phone the device actually dials your google voice number. Everything else works like normal. It will appear transparent to her and if the power fails she can still make and receive calls normally. You can also do things like block 900 calls, etc if her condition warrants it. While the SPA3102 is a VOIP product you don't need to connect it to the Internet or a network except to configure it. Set it up and debug it at your house, unplug it and then plug it in at her place, viola instant solution. Setting it up is not going to be intuitive but not impossible.

(More info) - you can either use the stock firmware from Linksys or install Asterisk.
posted by ChrisHartley at 6:03 PM on February 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Update: The Google Voice number has worked flawlessly. It's been a lifesaver!
posted by Thorzdad at 2:21 PM on March 31, 2011

Oh, good to hear.
posted by galadriel at 8:25 PM on April 1, 2011

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