COMPANION CALLS GUIDANCE

Thank you for offering your time to provide telephone support to a person who is isolating. A check in and chat call can make all the difference to someone who is living on their own at this time.

Telephone support is a positive step to engage with people who may have little or no contact with others, a consequence of self-isolating may lead to issues with confidence, self-esteem, and loneliness.

The support that you will be giving is a one-off phone call that can be flexible to suit the time you have available to give, and also the time that the interaction takes place. The aim is to ensure that the well-being of the isolated person is taken into consideration and possibly identify any practical support they may require.

Before You Call

Calls should be made at times that are mutually convenient to both the isolating person and yourself.

1. It is important to uphold the confidentiality of the individual at all times. You may receive/hear personal information or details through conversations, forms or other means. All forms of personal information must be treated with respect and be handled in a highly confidential way.

2. We recommend calling from a landline number, unless you have free minutes available on a mobile phone and are willing to use these.

3. Use a portable phone where possible so you can easily switch position and move around, and use appropriate seating with good support/

4. Ensure you withhold your number by dialling 141 before the telephone number you want to call.

5. Think about how you safely store peoples contact details, do not leave these in a place that other people can access. If you are able to lock these away in a safe place, please do so. If you need to destroy this information please ensure it is shredded in a confidential manner.

6. If you choose to continue to support an individual over the telephone and offer this personal act of kindness, this is a personal choice 

7. The person you’re supporting could be at risk of isolation for any reason, including cognitive difficulties or dementia. Be aware that when you have a conversation you may need to repeat yourself, revisit elements of the conversation or communicate more clearly than you may be used to in order to have a successful chat.

8. Before you begin calling you must set a specific time length for every call and make sure that both you and the service user stick to it. You must also reinforce that your companion role is a time-limited relationship.

Getting Started

Introduce yourself and let person know that you are a volunteer from Darlington Support. You are calling to check in with the person to chat and make sure they are ok. It’s difficult to pre-empt what types of queries you are likely to get from an individual, they may need some factual information or just some reassurance during these challenging times. Rest assured that there will be people available to support you if you are faced with a query that raises concerns. Contact your ward champion if you have concerns over the people you are supporting.

Some questions to help the conversation

• How are you doing today?
• Are you managing to get around the house ok?
• How are you feeling today?
• Have you managed to speak to any of your friends or family?
• What is a typical day like for you? Do you enjoy reading or watching TV?
• Are you managing to prepare your meals?
• Do you have all the medication you need?
• Are you able to get out to the garden for some air?

Supporting a person living with Dementia?

Living with dementia at any time brings everyday challenges for the person and those around them. COVID-19 is making daily life much harder. People may feel anxious, scared or lonely. COVID-19 may mean that people affected by dementia are no longer able to take part in activities which supported them to live well, and their carers and families may be caring for them 24/7 with no respite.

It’s important to note that dementia isn’t a natural part of ageing and similar symptoms can be brought on by depression. Dementia is caused by diseases of the brain and doesn’t just cause memory problems - it can affect anything and everything the brain controls, including mood and changes in behaviour. Dementia can make individuals forget details, but they will remember the feeling of reassurance and support provided by your call. This really will help to stop negative feelings caused by isolation.

For tips from the Alzheimer’s Society on how to better communicate with a person with dementia, please click here

The Alzheimer’s Society prepared this toolkit to provide details on how to support residents with dementia

If you would like any further information about dementia, please visit www.alzheimers.org.uk

If you are worried about the person you’re supporting and their memory, or if they inform you they are struggling with their dementia or someone they care for with dementia, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Supporting a person living with poor mental health?

Within your role you may be asked to support someone who is living with poor mental health, 1 in 4 people experience mental health problems each year and a friendly chat can help individuals through this difficult time. You may not be aware of an individual’s mental health and this may not even be discussed during your conversation. One of the amazing things you can offer as a volunteer is your listening skills and try to do this a non-judgemental manner.

• Ask questions to gather information about how the person is feeling?
• Listen without interrupting and repeat what has been said to check you have understood
• Ask open questions – What, where, when, why, how?
• Show someone you understand by telling them (e.g. “I can see how that’s been hard to deal with”) and don’t make judgements about what you’re told.

You could suggest the below to promote Mental Health Wellness:

• Try and stick to a routine, go to bed and wake up at a reasonable time. Allow time throughout the day for self-care
• Try and move around and stay active, for approx. 30 minutes a day
• Try and get outside for some fresh air. It’s amazing how much fresh air can do for your spirits.
• Reach out to others, spend time speaking to friends and family.
• Stay hydrated and eat well

Potential Questions and Situations That May Arise

I’m concerned that I’m not going to see anyone for a long time.

Recognise their concerns and let them that you are here to listen them. It’s ok to go outside if they have a garden and get some fresh air and they can exercise outside as well, keeping the 2 metre minimum distance.

I need some practical help, I can’t get to the shops or get my prescription.

Advise them to ring Darlington Support on 01325 978897. Alternatively, you could submit a support form here to place a request for shopping or prescription collection on their behalf.

I’ve been told to stay at home but I always go to the community centre on a Wednesday, can I still go?

If you have been told to stay at home we recommend you follow the guidance from the NHS. Community centres are closed at this time. You can still go out in your garden if you have one and for exercise only, you must keep 2 metres away from any other people.

I like talking to you, can you call me again next week?

This is up to you. If you are happy to give the isolating person another call then let them know and advise them of the date and approximate time, ensuring you continue to follow the guidelines. If you do not feel able to give them another call then tell them ‘That’s lovely to hear, I’ve enjoyed talking with you too but I’m unable to call frequently. I can however request another call from a different volunteer if you would like?’ If the isolating person agrees then submit a support form here to place a request for further and/or regular calls (dependent on what the individual has asked for).

Can I take down your phone number, so I can call you if I need anything?

Politely tell the individual that you are not permitted to give out your personal contact details and if they need practical support we can offer by matching them with a suitable volunteer.

I’m lonely and I don’t have anyone I can call.

Ask who they would usually talk to/spend time with and see if they can contact any of these people via phone.

I’m worried about my neighbour, can you call them if I give you their number?

At the moment we are only able to support people that have been referred to us. I would suggest your neighbour could call 01325 978897 to request help with practical support, such as shopping, or speak to their GP if they have concerns about their health and wellbeing.

I’m feeling very sad/depressed/hopeless, I think I need some help.

Talk to them to understand their needs. If they need practical support, we could see if there is a volunteer available to do this. If required, suggest that they call Darlington Support on 01325 978897 to receive practical support, such as shopping, or that they speak to their GP.

Never offer help or advice outside your expertise. If a topic comes up that you are unsure about, please raise the issue with your Ward Champion or team leader.

If the person you are calling starts to be verbally abusive or threatening in any way, advise them you will terminate the call due to their behaviour, end the call and report the incident to your Ward Champion or team leader.

© Darlington Support UK | Terms | Team