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Going Postal

Case study: An 86 year old patient with advanced malignancy is seen by palliative care for anemia, dyspnea, fatigue and pain.  Patient is a very meticulous person and maintains pristine personal financial records and documentation. His fatigue has been getting worse. On questioning, he states that he receives several pounds of junk mail everyday and feels compelled to review every single item and catalog them carefully. This process takes him up to six hours per day. Further questioning reveals that he receives many letters from organizations who claim to be charitable organizations and are constantly soliciting funds.  Patient admits to sending them what he can as he “cannot stand the thought of children starving”. He also is the recipient of several phone calls per day from fund raising charitable agencies and finds himself unable to “say no”.

In summary, answering the soliciting phone calls and sorting the junk mail was exhausting him. He has caller ID on the phone, but is unable to stop picking up the phone in case his family was calling.



An average person spends about eight months of their lives dealing with junk mail! Older adults who live alone are at risk for being overwhelmed by high volume junk mail and also more likely to be responsive to fund solicitations by fraudulent agencies.

 To stop or decrease volume of unsolicited commercial mail:

The Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) Mail Preference Service (MPS) lets you opt out of receiving unsolicited commercial mail from many national companies for five years. When you have your patient  register with this service, her name will be put on a “delete” file and made available to direct-mail marketers and organizations. This will reduce most of the  unsolicited mail. However, the in DMA registration will not stop mailings from organizations that do not use the DMA’s Mail Preference Service. To register with DMA’s Mail Preference Service, go to, or mail a request with a $1 processing fee to:

DMAchoice, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 643, Carmel, NY 10512

To stop or decrease volume of telemarketing calls: 

The federal government’s National Do Not Call Registry is a free, easy way to reduce the telemarketing calls your patient gets at home. To register your patient’s phone number or to get information about the registry, visit, or call 1-888-382-1222 from the phone number you want to register. This will result in fewer telemarketing calls within 31 days of registering your number.


1. Internet reference: Accessed 9-12-2011


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